GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP)Having already clinched the Southeastern Conference regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming league tournament, South Carolina coach Dawn Staley talked to her players about avoiding a letdown.
They responded with a beatdown.
Mikiah Herbert Harrigan scored 18 points, Tyasha Harris added 16 and the top-ranked Gamecocks routed Florida 100-67 on Thursday night for their 22nd consecutive victory.
South Carolina (28-1, 15-0 Southeastern Conference) matched a program record for consecutive victories, set during the 2015-16 season.
”It just means we’re doing something right,” Staley said. ”I think our players are locked in and they want to win. That’s their mantra all season long: Just win the game. They don’t care what the stats look like. They don’t care who’s doing what. At the end of the game, we need to have more points than our opponents.”
Still, Staley felt the need to address any thoughts of easing up after clinching the first of what the Gamecocks hope will be several titles this season.
”We talked about it because they’re competitive beings,” she said. ”They want to play for something. Obviously, we did get the SEC, the No. 1 seed. Since we’re here and we’re undefeated, we might as well as continue on that path of being undefeated in the regular season.”
This one was decided by halftime. South Carolina made 18 of its first 26 shots (69.2%) to open up a double-digit lead and then used a 16-2 run to go up by 26 in the second quarter. The Gamecocks led 53-30 at the break and made it a 30-point blowout early in the third quarter.
”It’s no joke. No. 1 team in the country. I think they’re better than the national championship team,” Florida coach Cam Newbauer said, comparing Staley’s current squad with the one that won it all in 2017. ”And they play hard.”
Zada Williams led the Gators (15-13, 6-9) with 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Lavender Briggs added 15.
Herbert Harrigan did most of her damage in the opening 20 minutes, scoring 15 points. Harris took over from there, scoring six points in the third. She also finished with eight assists.
Aliyah Boston chipped in 11 points and nine rebounds, finishing one board shy of her 12th double-double this season. Zia Cooke also had 11 points, and LeLe Grissett ended up with 10 – giving the Gamecocks five players in double figures as they reached the century mark for the first time since late November.
South Carolina shot 59.2% from the floor, outscoring Florida in the paint, in transition and off the bench.
Florida fell to 0-10 against top-ranked teams in the AP poll. The Gators were hosting the No. 1 team for the first time since 1998 and looking to beat a ranked team for the third time this month.
Florida upset then-No. 14 Kentucky in early February and then-No. 22 Arkansas last weekend. But the Gators never had a chance Thursday, showing just how much work third-year coach Newbauer has to do to close the gap on the league’s top team.
”They did everything to the best of their ability, and it really showed tonight,” Williams said. ”Credit to them and what they do.”
South Carolina: Anything short of the Final Four, and maybe a second national championship in four seasons, would be a disappointment for the Gamecocks. They are 10-1 against ranked teams, including wins over defending national champion Baylor and perennial powerhouse UConn.
Florida: With 15 wins, including six in the SEC, the Gators have surpassed their win total from each of the last two seasons. Newbauer seems to have the program on the right track, but significant progress has been slow.
South Carolina: Hosts No. 12 Texas A&M to end the regular season Sunday. It will be Senior Day for Herbert Harrigan and Harris, who won the national title as freshmen.
Florida: Closes the regular season at Georgia on Sunday.
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