A'ja Wilson had 24 points and 12 rebounds coming off the bench and eighth-ranked South Carolina beat No. 12 Tennessee 73-62 on Friday night in the Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinals.
The Gamecocks (24-6) are back in the semifinals as they chase a fourth straight tournament title, which has never been done in the SEC. They will play No. 14 Missouri or No. 19 Georgia in the semifinals Saturday.
Coach Dawn Staley wasn't sure if the three-time SEC player of the year would play in the SEC tournament. Now the Gamecocks look primed to break its tie with Tennessee for most consecutive tournament championships at three apiece. Wilson didn't start against the Lady Vols after missing the regular season finale at Tennessee with vertigo.
Wilson came off the bench with 6:29 left in the first quarter. She scored six points and grabbed three rebounds to prove quickly she's healthy.
Alexis Jennings had 19 points and 12 rebounds for South Carolina. Mikiah Herbert Harrigan also had 15.
Tennessee (24-7) lost for the 100th time in SEC play in program history with the Lady Vols' worst shooting performance of the season. Anastasia Hayes led Tennessee with 17 points, and Jaime Nared added 15 points and 13 rebounds and Mercedes Russell had 12 points.
Not only did the Gamecocks have Wilson back, but Jennings gave them a much better game than she did last weekend against Tennessee. In the regular season finale, Jennings had just three points and seven rebounds. She nearly had a double-double by halftime.
Tennessee had its only lead at 3-2 before a pair of free throws by Cliney put the Gamecocks ahead to stay. South Carolina led 16-9 after the first quarter and 33-23 at halftime. The Lady Vols scored eight straight to pull within 46-43 of the Gamecocks.
Herbert Harrigan's jumper started a 13-0 run by South Carolina, and Doniyah Cliney's 3 capped the spurt with 8:15 left and a 59-43 lead. The Gamecocks led by as much as 18 with Tennessee not hitting a shot in the fourth until Nared's jumper with 6:38 left.
• With Friday’s win, the Gamecocks advanced to the semifinal round of the SEC Tournament for the fifth-straight season.
• Carolina’s 10-straight victories in SEC Tournament play matches the longest winning streak in the event’s history.
• With a game-high 24 points, senior forward A’ja Wilson moved five away from the Carolina’s all-time scoring record (2,266 points) held by Sheila Foster (1979-82).
• Gamecock forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan finished with 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting. The sophomore has reach double figures in three of her last four outings.
The Gamecocks grabbed control and established a 61-43 lead with 7:33 to play after opening the fourth quarter on a 13-0 run. Carolina’s frontcourt accounted for 10 points during the stretch.
The Gamecock frontcourt was productive throughout Friday’s victory, as A’ja Wilson, Mikiah Herbert Harrigan and Alexis Jennings combined to shoot 23-of-33 from the floor. The trio of Gamecocks totaled 58 of Carolina’s 73 points.
Second-seeded Carolina will play either third-seeded Georgia or sixth-seeded Missouri Saturday in the semifinal round of the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament. The contest will tip off after the first semifinal contest of the day (4 p.m. ET), and the game will air on ESPNU.