Sessions, Farmer help give Staley 100th victory at USC

uscwhoops-staleysessionsA pair of Grand Strand products helped South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley claim her 100th career coaching victory with the Lady Gamecocks on Monday.

Myrtle Beach High grad and sophomore guard Khadijah Sessions scored seven points and made six assists and North Myrtle Beach newcomer India Farmer drilled her first collegiate 3-pointer in a balanced effort by the Lady Gamecocks.

No. 12 South Carolina posted a 36-3 run early in the first half en route to a 79-27 win over NC Central at Colonial Life Arena, giving head coach Dawn Staley her 100th win with the Garnet and Black.

The Lady Gamecocks (8-0) saw sophomore Tiffany Mitchell continue her hot shooting as the guard had 13 points at the break and finished with 19 on 7-of-9 shooting, her eighth-straight game in double figures. As a team, South Carolina shot 58.5 percent from the field, including 69.2 percent in the decisive first half.

Asia Dozier got things off to a quick start with a 3-pointer on the Gamecocks’ opening possession, and a pair of free throws stretched the early lead to 5-0 before the Eagles got on the board. Aleighsa Welch hit a transition layup and a free throw on the next trip down the court for an 8-2 advantage. After Raquel Davis hit a pair of free throws to make it an 8-4 game with 14:50 left in the half, South Carolina locked down on defense and turned it into easy offense.

The 36-3 surge started with Mitchell driving baseline and dropping it off for Alaina Coates on the right block. On back-to-back plays, Mitchell came up with a steals and quickly turned them into layups to put the Gamecocks up by double digits at 15-4. Her defensive rebound kept the run going, and Coates added a traditional three-point play. A Tina Roy defensive board triggered a transition layup from Welch, and it was 20-4 with just over 11 minutes left in the half.

The Gamecock lead stretched to 26-4 after two more turnovers and a Coates defensive rebound kept the Eagles off the board. Morgan Jones briefly stemmed the tide with a 3-pointer, but the Gamecocks went right back inside to Coates on the next trip up the floor. Mitchell and Khadijah Sessions each swiped a steal that they converted with a layup on the other end to make it 34-7 just 14 minutes into the contest.

NC Central got control of their turnovers, but could make little headway in the remaining six minutes of the half. South Carolina, shooting 71.9 percent in the half, took a 46-15 lead into the locker room. It was the Gamecocks’ fifth 40-point half of the season as Welch and Coates nearly joined Mitchell in double figures with nine points each.

The sharp shooting continued in the second half with Mitchell draining back-to-back 3s and jumpers by Welch and Olivia Gaines pushing the lead to 43 five minutes into the period. Nine minutes later LeAnna Morrison added the first 3-pointer of her career to put the Gamecocks up by 51 at 74-23.

South Carolina went 31-of-53 from the floor, the second-highest percentage of the season and the third highest of the Staley Era. The 52-point margin of victory is the second highest of Staley’s tenure at the helm of the Gamecocks. The defensive effort limited NC Central to just 16 percent from the field as they hit just 8-of-50 shots from the field.

Every available Gamecock scored in the contest with a trio of Gamecocks reaching double digits on the night. Mitchell posted a game-high 19 points, Coates added 15 off of the bench and Welch scored 13. Coates also led the Gamecocks on the boards, snagging seven rebounds. Sessions dished out six assists to set a new career high.

The Gamecocks dominated down low, pouring in 40 points in the paint compared to just six for the Eagles. The transition game was all South Carolina as well, with the Gamecocks holding a 22-2 edge.

South Carolina returns to action on Sunday, Dec. 8, at Charlotte for a 2 p.m. tipoff at Halton Arena then takes a 10-day break for exams.

Photo courtesy of USC Athletics

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