A'ja Wilson scored 29 points and Alexis Jennings had 19 as No. 5 South Carolina bounced back from its first loss of the season with a 101-43 pummeling of Western Carolina on Thursday night.
The Gamecocks (7-1) fell behind 2-0, then broke off a 17-0 run powered by the 6-foot-5 Wilson and 6-2 Jennings that put the game out of reach for the Catamounts (1-5) of the Southern Conference.
Wilson and Jennings combined to score the team's first eight points then never let up against their overmatched opponent. It was a welcome beatdown for South Carolina, which fell to No. 3 Notre Dame 92-85 in the finals of the Gulf Coast Showcase.
Wilson, the two-time defending Southeastern Conference player of the year, has turned her scoring up for the defending national champions, scoring 33, 17, 34 and 29 points her past four games. She came close to her third 30-point game of the season, but was taken out for good with five minutes remaining.
Wilson made 13 of 19 shots and grabbed seven rebounds.
Lauren Laplant, Sherae Bonner and Nikki Johnson had eight points each to lead Western Carolina.
It was South Carolina's first time hitting the century mark since last year's NCAA Tournament run as it defeated Quinnipiac 100-58 in the round of 16. It was the Gamecocks' biggest margin of victory since topping Savannah State 111-49 in December 2014.
THE BIG PICTURE
Western Carolina: The Catamounts were terribly outmatched against the Gamecocks and settled for long, outside shots that they won't once Southern Conference season rolls around.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks pushed their size advantage and athleticism on defense to make short work of Western Carolina. South Carolina outrebounded the Catamouts 28-10 the first 20 minutes and forced 15 turnovers. South Carolina needed a feel-good game after its loss to Notre Dame with No. 14 Duke ahead on Sunday.
QUOTABLE DAWN STALEY
On A’ja Wilson embracing being in the spotlight
With what took place at the end of last season, I just think she grew her wings to be in this position now. She has worked on her game over the summer, specifically her ball-handling and when you are able to handle the ball you are able to do a lot of things. That was the area she most improved ... She understands that she plays a big role in our success and what better way than what she did in the national championship. She saw that, and I think she gained confidence in knowing she can take over basketball games.
South Carolina’s offense recovered from an early slow start to score on nine straight possessions to take a 17-2 lead with 3:44 to go in the first quarter. The defense forced six turnovers during the five-minute stretch.
The Gamecocks owned the paint, outscoring the Catamounts 66-18 and winning the battle of the boards 45-22
The Gamecocks continue their four-game homestand with a noon tipoff Sunday against No. 15/16 Duke.