COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina’s sloppy 69-57 win over Clemson on Thursday night was one of those games where the Gamecocks were thankful to get a win and move on.
The Gamecocks (2-0) are still trying to adjust to a new style of play. They were dominant inside the past few years, but now are focusing more on faster guard play. It’s still a work in progress. The Gamecocks turned the ball over 27 times and shot just 36 percent.
“She was stressing everything we didn’t do,” guard Te’a Cooper said when asked what coach Dawn Staley was asking them in the huddle during a miserable second half.
South Carolina led Clemson 41-25 at the break, but scored just 12 points over the next 15 minutes. They made just three shots and turned the ball over 10 times in a third quarter where they looked totally befuddled by the Tigers zone. There were turnovers trying to pound the ball inside and bad cross court passes as Clemson (2-1) tried to force everything to one side.
“We didn’t handle their zone very well,” Staley said.
Cooper led South Carolina with 15 points.
The Tigers battled back from a slow start. Clemson missed 15 of 17 shots during one first half stretch, falling behind by as much as 21 in the second quarter.
Simone Westbrook had 14 points and five steals and Kobi Thornton added 11 for the Tigers.
South Carolina has won nine in a row over Clemson, the longest streak in the bitter in-state rivalry.
Clemson has lost 90 of its last 91 games against AP Top 25 teams.
The teams combined for 53 fouls, 33 of them by the Tigers.
Clemson: The Tigers came out fearless against South Carolina. They may not have the talent of the top half of the Atlantic Coast Conference, but their willingness to grind through and contest almost every shot is going to make them a tough opponent for almost everyone. New Clemson coach Amanda Butler has a big gap to try to bridge in the state. The Tigers haven’t had a winning season since 2004 and haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2002.
South Carolina: This was not the kind of game that Staley envisioned with her guard-oriented, fast playing new lineup. South Carolina shot just 3-of-17 on 3-pointers, which without a lot of size, is going to make it tough to beat better teams.
Clemson is breaking in its fourth coach in 10 years in Amanda Butler, fired from Florida two seasons ago.
South Carolina was a big test for a coach trying to sell a veteran team on her way of doing things, and Butler said she was happy to see them enthusiastically embrace her zone and her demand for effort.
“I loved their fight. I loved they wouldn’t go away,” Butler said. “The other thing we’re learning — maybe the uglier the better.”
South Carolina’s streak of 88 weeks in the AP Top 10 has continued thanks to the faith of voters in the preseason poll. The Gamecocks can stay in the top 10 on their own merits if they can beat No. 9 Maryland on Sunday. Clemson has not been ranked in the AP Top 25 since March 2001 and won’t be next week.
South Carolina blocked 16 shots, the most in Staley’s 11 seasons. In a game full of surprising stats, that might have been the most stunning considering the kind of size the Gamecocks have had during Staley’s time.
Clemson: The Tigers head to Alabama on Monday for the second of three games against SEC teams. They play No. 12 Tennessee in the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas on Nov. 22.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks face their first big test of the season at home Sunday against ninth-ranked Maryland.
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