Wilson lifts No. 2 South Carolina past No. 16 Arizona StatePosted: Updated:
With No. 2 South Carolina in a back-and-forth game with No. 16 Arizona State, Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley figured the team with the final possession would win it.
She was right.
A'ja Wilson made two free throws with 0.6 seconds left to give South Carolina a 60-58 victory Friday in the Rainbow Wahine Showdown.
"We played against a real good basketball team and the team that had the opportunity to make the last play was probably going to win it how the game was being played," Staley said. "Thankfully, it was us."
Wilson and Bianca Cuevas each scored 18 points for the Gamecocks (5-0).
Arizona State (1-2) took a 58-56 lead on Katie Hempen's 3-pointer from the left wing with 1:17 remaining. Alaina Coates got a putback on South Carolina's next possession to tie it with just under a minute to play.
The Sun Devils had a chance to take the lead, but Hempen missed a 3-pointer and the Gamecocks got the ball back with 8.3 seconds left and advanced it to mid-court with a timeout.
"They never should have had the ball back," Arizona State coach Charlie Turner Thorne said. "We just went too early and so there was no timing on it. It should have been we win it or we go to overtime.
It's just a little bit of a learning experience."
Wilson grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds before drawing a foul just before the final buzzer and made both of her free throws. Arizona State inbounded the ball, but was unable to get a final shot off.
"We wanted to make the emphasis to go inside and have A'ja kind of do what she did all game long, which was being able to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim," said Staley, whose team was 1 of 11 on 3-pointers. "She did that, but with us you've got to take whatever the defense is giving us. They applied a lot of pressure on our perimeter players and made it hard for us to see our post players, so outside shots were the thing that they were giving us."
Hempen had 12 points — all coming on 3-pointers — and Elisha Davis added 10 for the Sun Devils.
Wilson, who earned All-America honors as a freshman last season, was 8 of 11 from the field and also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
Tiffany Mitchell, South Carolina's other All-American and two-time Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, was held to six points on 2-of-7 shooting.
Cuevas, a sophomore guard, scored 11 points the second half.
The Gamecocks shot 29 percent (5 of 17) on field goals in the first quarter, but made 46 percent (19 of 41) of their shots the rest of the way to overcome a 17-14 deficit after the opening quarter.
"We like to go inside," Staley said. "I think when our post players touch the ball they create higher percentage shots for us. I thought A'ja Wilson did a really good job of catching and getting to the rim and forcing their post players back on their heels and she got some easy buckets."
Meanwhile, the Sun Devils went the other way, making 14 of their final 45 field-goal attempts (31 percent) after shooting at a 44 percent clip (7 of 16) in the first quarter.
South Carolina dominated the post, outscoring Arizona State 42-16 on points in the paint.
There were 10 ties and 11 lead changes.
Arizona State: Arizona State junior forward Sophie Brunner had 10 rebounds to six points, but suffered an apparent left ankle injury at the 4:27 mark in the fourth quarter and did not return. Brunner, the Sun Devils' second-leading scorer coming into the game, went down after she was called for a blocking foul and was in obvious pain while being tended to by trainers for more than 5 minutes. She was taken off the court by wheelchair with the game tied at 53. ... Junior center Quinn Dornstauder briefly left the game after taking a shot to her chin late in the first quarter and junior forward Kelsey Moos left late in the third quarter with an injury and did not return. "It took out our entire front line," Turner Thorne said. "My starting center (Dornstauder) has five stitches in her chin, my starting three player (Moos) is out for the rest of the tournament and my starting four player (Brunner) might be out for the year, so that's the tougher thing. I can handle losing a game, but losing those three was honestly very tough."
South Carolina: It was the Gamecocks' second win over a ranked opponent this season. They opened with an 88-80 win over No. 6 Ohio State on Nov. 13. South Carolina had a school-record 10 wins over ranked opponents last season.
THE GAME THAT NEVER WAS
South Carolina and Arizona State nearly met in the Elite Eight last season in the NCAA Tournament. Both teams were in the Greensboro, North Carolina, regional. The Gamecocks beat North Carolina 67-65, while the Sun Devils dropped a 66-65 decision to Florida State in the Sweet 16. South Carolina went on to beat Florida State, 80-74, to advance to the Final Four.
Arizona State will face tournament host Hawaii on Saturday.
South Carolina will play Cal State Bakersfield on Saturday.
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