Wilson back, No. 10 South Carolina women top Kentucky 81-64
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — South Carolina coach Dawn Staley was relieved to get her top player back on the court.
Senior A’Ja Wilson came off the bench and scored 26 points after missing two games because of an ankle injury, leading No. 10 South Carolina over Kentucky 81-64 Sunday.
“It helped (us) in so many aspects of the game,” Staley said. “Obviously she can score the ball and she can rebound and defensively she blocks shots. She’s an intimidator in the paint.”
“It just helps our overall morale and she’s a voice out there on the court and she talks to our young players. She gives us a great deal of confidence,” she said.
Wilson, who tops the Southeastern Conference in scoring with 23.2 points per game, showed no ill effects in her return from a sprained right ankle. She shot 10 for 12 and also had eight rebounds.
“It definitely felt good to be out there,” Wilson said. “I really did miss my teammates and just being out there. It’s a lot of fun and felt good to get back in it.”
Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said Wilson was the difference in the game.
“She’s a world-class player,” Mitchell said. “One of the best human beings on the planet that plays women’s basketball.”
Former Kentucky forward Alexis Jennings added 17 points and seven rebounds for the Gamecocks (16-3, 5-2). The junior averaged 8.9 points and 5.4 rebounds during her two seasons with the Wildcats.
“I wasn’t worried about (coming back),” Jennings said. “I just did what I do best and that’s scoring the ball. Playing (at Rupp Arena) was very different than (playing at Memorial Coliseum). I didn’t shy away from the crowd. We have a lot of fans at our gym, too.”
Tyasha Harris had 12 points for South Carolina in its seventh straight win over Kentucky. The Gamecocks made their last five shots of the first half and outscored the Wildcats 21-8 in the second quarter.
“We got the ball to the right people,” Staley said. “Getting the ball to our post players benefited us.”
Maci Morris led Kentucky (9-11, 1-5) with 19 points. Taylor Murray had 17 points, KeKe McKinney had 12 and Dorie Harrison 11.
“I saw some signs of progress for us today,” Mitchell said. “We’re disappointed in the result, but we have to keep getting better and keep working.”
South Carolina: The Gamecocks return from the road following two straight wins, recovering from an 86-70 loss to No. 6 Tennessee last week. After home games against Arkansas and Missouri, they host top-ranked Connecticut on Feb. 1.
Kentucky: Eight of Kentucky’s 11 losses have been against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll this season, including three against conference rivals. This was among three games for the Wildcats this season at Rupp Arena.
South Carolina: Hosts Arkansas on Thursday.
Kentucky: Hosts Alabama on Thursday.