The loss of A’ja Wilson and Tennessee’s star power proved too much to overcome for the South Carolina Gamecocks, who took a rough 86-70 loss to the No. 6 Lady Vols in Columbia on Sunday.
Wilson was unable to go after injuring her ankle late in the Gamecocks’ victory against Auburn, and South Carolina saw another post player go down when Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, Wilson’s replacement who has been giving the team solid minutes off the bench, had to be helped off the court.
Considering the circumstances, the first half went well for South Carolina, with the teams trading baskets and the Gamecocks staying within single digits of the Lady Vols. But Tennessee (16-1, 3-1 SEC) heated up and pulled away in the second half, keyed by the performances of Jaime Nared (21 points), Mercedes Russell (16 points, 12 rebounds), and Evina Westbrook (14 points, all in the second half). Without Wilson and Herbet Harrigan, the Lady Vols outrebounded the Gamecocks 41-28 and also had a 44-36 advantage in points in the paint.
Ty Harris continued her strong season to stand out for South Carolina, scoring a career-high 28 points. Alexis Jennings put up 12 points and LeLe Grissett had her best game as a Gamecock, scoring 10 points and collecting eight rebounds off the bench.
It was the worst loss No. 10 South Carolina (14-3, 3-2) has suffered at home since 2013, when the Lady Vols topped the Gamecocks 73-53. The biggest concern moving forward is obviously the health of Wilson and Herbert Harrigan — both will be getting MRIs, and coach Dawn Staley indicated that Herbet Harrigan’s injury, at least, was less severe than initially feared.
Up next: South Carolina hits the road to Vanderbilt on Thursday.