COLUMBIA, S.C. - Fourth-seeded South Carolina took care of 13-seed Belmont 74-52 at Halton Arena on Friday afternoon in the opening round of the 2019 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament. The Gamecocks (22-9, 13-3 SEC) used a dominant defensive effort in the second quarter, allowing just three points, to separate from Belmont on their way to the victory.
Te'a Cooper paced the Gamecocks with 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting in 27 minutes. Four starters reached double figures, including Alexis Jennings who contributed 12 points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes. Tyasha Harris sank a pair of threes on her way to 12 points and handed out six assists during the win. Doniyah Cliney shot a perfect 5-of-5 on her way to 10 points and collected four rebounds.
Cooper got the Gamecock offense going with the opening bucket of the game, but Belmont responded with a 6-0 run to hold an early advantage. Carolina took back the lead, and never let it go, with a 12-2 run, highlighted by a fastbreak started by Cliney and finished with a gorgeous assist from Destanni Henderson to the streaking Cliney. Five of the last seven points of the opening period were scored by Belmont, ending the quarter with Carolina on top 16-13.
The second quarter was a defensive clinic by the Gamecocks. The Garnet and Black forced two shot clock violations during the opening portion of the period, and an 8-0 run propelled by smooth jumpers from Bianca Jackson and Harris extended the lead to double digits at 24-13 with 3:20 remaining in the half. Carolina finished off the first half scoring the final five points to take a 29-16 lead into the locker room.
The second half opened up with a highlight reel play as Harris found Henderson behind the defense, and threw a perfect pass for an alley-oop that got the fans off their feet. Carolina's offense hit its stride in the quarter, using another 8-0 run keyed by an and-one from Jennings and a triple from Harris to extend the lead to 43-28 with 4:35 to go in the third. The Gamecocks finished the quarter by hitting their final seven shots, including back-to-back buckets from Cliney to end the 31-point quarter on top 60-36.
The lead ballooned even larger in the fourth with the Gamecocks scoring the first six points. Mikiah Herbert Harrigan did work on the defensive end, blocking three shots in just a 3:30 span. The Gamecocks were able to coast the rest of the way to the victory, and move on to Sunday's second-round game.
Carolina held Belmont to 1-of-8 during the lights-out second quarter, helping grow the lead to double digits by halftime.
The Gamecocks were able to take full advantage of the 17 turnovers by Belmont, scoring 27 points off turnovers.
• The three points allowed by the Gamecocks in the second quarter tied the least amount of points scored in a quarter in program history
• Dawn Staley is now 8-0 in NCAA First Round games since taking over at South Carolina with an average margin of victory at nearly 29 points
• Tyasha Harris moved into the top five in Gamecock program history with her six assists, passing Lisa Diaz (1987-90) and becoming just the fifth Gamecock ever to amass 500 career assists.
• South Carolina is now 13-0 when allowing less than 59 points this season and 17-1 when holding its opponent below 39 percent from the floor.