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South Carolina shakes off pesky N.C. A&T for 63-52 NCAA Tournament win

That was a little more difficult than it needed to be.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The defending champion South Carolina Gamecocks got a bit of a wake up call on Friday night, unable to sleepwalk through their matchup against the 15th-seeded N.C. A&T Aggies in a 63-52 victory in Columbia.

The game got off a sluggish offensive start for both teams, but the Gamecocks gradually built a 39-21 halftime advantage and looked ready to throw it in cruise control for the second half. The Aggies had other ideas, however, and kicked it into high gear for the fourth quarter: Kala Green, who led A&T with 21 points, hit three 3-pointers to help key a 14-5 run. Suddenly, a Gamecock lead that had been as large as 20 points had shrunk to seven.

South Carolina still had A’ja Wilson, though. Wilson helped the Gamecocks turn back A&T’s furious rally, scoring 19 points and grabbing 16 rebounds for her 22nd double-double of the season. But even Wilson had her struggles, committing five turnovers and shooting 6-of-15 from the field.

To say it was an off game is an understatement. Bianca Jackson was the only other double-figure scorer for South Carolina, putting up 16 points. Ty Harris scored just three points to go with only one assist, and all seven of Alexis Jennings’ points came courtesy of the free-throw line. The Gamecocks were sloppy and out of sync, getting careless with the ball and unable to establish an offensive rhythm for much of the game. It goes without saying they’ll need to get back on the same page as the tournament continues.

Up next: The Gamecocks will face 10th-seeded Virginia on Sunday. The Cavaliers took out seventh-seeded California 68-62 earlier on Friday. The game time has not yet been determined.