No. 8 South Carolina women rout No. 19 Georgia 71-49 at SEC
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The South Carolina Gamecocks are ready for yet another showdown with Mississippi State.
It’s not the national championship the Gamecocks won last April , just the third time around with the Southeastern Conference women’s tournament title on the line.
“I’m glad we get a chance to try to outfox each other one more time,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said of facing Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer again. “I’ll be remiss if I didn’t say I want it to end the same way it did last year all the way through.”
A’ja Wilson had 21 points and 11 rebounds to help No. 8 South Carolina rout No. 19 Georgia 71-49 on Saturday to reach the SEC tournament championship for the fourth straight year.
Wilson came off the bench for a second straight game after a bout of vertigo kept her out of the regular-season finale and had her questionable for the tournament. The three-time SEC player of the year came in needing five points to become the Gamecocks’ career scoring leader scorer, and Wilson managed that with three quick buckets in the first quarter.
Now three-time defending tournament champ South Carolina (25-6) will play No. 2 Mississippi State for something no SEC team has ever managed — a fourth straight title. Mississippi State beat No. 15 Texas A&M 70-55 earlier Saturday.
“It would mean the world to me honestly just to put something else in the history book here,” Wilson said. “We have been breaking records for a while now. Coach has turned this program around, and that’s one of the reasons why I came here, is to be in the history books.”
Doniyah Cliney and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan added 14 points apiece for South Carolina.
Georgia (25-6) heads home missing out on the championship game yet again. A four-time tournament champ, the Bulldogs haven’t played in the title game since 2004. Coach Joni Taylor wasn’t happy that the Bulldogs shot 29.7 percent.
“Hopefully that’s what we learned from this game,” Taylor said. “We’ve got to be able to knock down big shots in games like this.”
Mackenzie Engram led the Bulldogs with 10 points.
Georgia scored the first four points of the game and led 8-4 on a pair of free throws by Taja Cole with 6:12 left. That’s when Wilson, who came off the bench with 6:52 to go, got going. Wilson missed her first bucket, then knocked down three straight. Caliya Robinson tipped in a bucket for Georgia’s last lead at 12-11 before Wilson’s layup put South Carolina ahead to stay.
South Carolina led 16-12 after the first quarter and led by as much as 16 in outscoring Georgia 19-9 in the second for a 35-21 halftime lead. The Gamecocks led 53-37 after three quarters and led by as much as 23 in the fourth.
Georgia: The Bulldogs at least reached the semifinal for the first time since 2013 after tying South Carolina for second in the league standings during the regular season. ... Each loss has come against Top 25 teams this season. ... Georgia came in with the SC’s stingiest defense, holding opponents to 34 percent shooting. The Gamecocks shot 56.5 percent (26 of 46).
South Carolina: Wilson came in trailing Sheila Foster, who scored 2,226 points in 134 games between 1979 and 1982. The senior needed one fewer game with this the 133rd of her career.
“It’s a blessing, it really is, to kind of be the homegrown child who came in and just kind of, and now she’s the leading scorer. I mean it is a blessing and an honor to have that,” Wilson said.
This will be the second time in league history that two teams met for the tournament title in three consecutive years. Auburn and Tennessee played for the title between 1988 and 1990. Tennessee won the first two titles, while Auburn won the third showdown.
Georgia: NCAA Tournament bracket announcement.
South Carolina: Mississippi State on Sunday.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker