Mitchell scores 24 in No. 3 South Carolina's 75-39 victory
Feb. 28, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — As happy South Carolina players smiled and danced after completing a perfect run through the Southeastern Conference, Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley made a vow to fans: "We're not done."
Two-time SEC player of the year Tiffany Mitchell scored a season-high 24 points and the Gamecocks (28-1) became just the second 16-0 SEC champion after defeating LSU 75-39 on Sunday.
Staley acknowledged the satisfying achievement — matching Tennessee's 2011 run through the league — yet made sure her giddy players understood the challenges ahead.
"The task at hand was being 16-0 in this league," Staley said. "It's the kind of focus you need when you're trying to win a national championship because it doesn't get any easier. It gets a lot harder as we take each step."
Next up is the SEC tournament in Jacksonville, Florida, before a likely NCAA top seed and a try at a second consecutive Final Four.
"We've accomplished one of our goals this season," Mitchell said of the undefeated SEC record. "But we're not done at all. We have a lot more that we want to accomplish and that's another (SEC) tournament championship and getting to the Final Four again."
Mitchell, a senior honored in her final regular-season home game, was in the thick of running past LSU (9-20, 3-13), scoring nine straight points in a 22-4 run midway through the second quarter.
A'ja Wilson had 14 points and seven rebounds for the Gamecocks.
Rina Hill scored 16 points for LSU, who made just 13 field goals in finishing with its second-lowest point this season.
The Lady Tigers had not lost 20 games in a season since 1994-95.
"It's been a challenging year for us and we knew what we were up against when we came up against South Carolina," LSU coach Nikki Fargas said.
Mitchell's point total, one shy of her career best, moved her into fifth place on South Carolina's scoring list with 1,796 points. She'll have a few more chances to improve before the senior is through as the Gamecocks look for a second straight SEC tournament title and a run at an NCAA championship.
South Carolina got off to a slow start, hitting just one of its first seven shots. The Gamecocks led just 14-11 early in the second quarter when Wilson and Mitchell sparked a 22-4 run to take control.
Wilson had a basket followed by a three-point play before Mitchell hit a 3-pointer and a three-point play of her own. Mitchell had a second long-range basket and fellow seniors Tina Roy and Khadijah Sessions also hit shots from behind the arc to put the Gamecocks ahead 36-15.
LSU struggled against South Carolina's defense, going nearly four minutes of the second quarter without points. The Lady Tigers hit only two of the six shots they took in the quarter — and things got worse after halftime as they went 2 of 15 for the period.
LSU: Lady Tigers have the fewest SEC wins since going 1-10 in 1994-95. ... Fun fact: LSU coach Nikki Fargas is married to son of Antonio Fargas, who famously played "Huggy Bear" on the 70s classic, "Starsky and Hutch."
South Carolina: Gamecocks again will finish as the top draw in women's basketball, attracting 14,831 fans per game heading into its regular-season finale. Tennesse was a distant second — and the only other women's team with more than 10,000 people per game — at 10,285. There were 16,240 here for LSU.
SEC PLAYER OF THE YEAR
When asked who was the SEC's player of the year this season, Wilson pointed right at teammate Mitchell. However, Wilson may have had the more impactful season and could supplant Mitchell on top. Wilson leads the Gamecocks with 16.6 points a game and is second in rebounds. She also leads in blocks. Mitchell is averaging 14.9 points a game this year.
The Gamecocks honored five seniors in Mitchell, Asia Dozier, Sessions, Roy and Sarah Imovbioh, a group that helped South Carolina to a program-high 116 wins the past four years. Staley said it was fitting for the group to go out with an unblemished SEC season because they signed on at South Carolina when things were no so strong. "Our seniors make it look so easy," Staley said. "They've adjusted to playing in front of a big crowd and just feed off the energy in the building."
LSU: Southeastern Conference tournament.
South Carolina: Southeastern Conference tournament.