Sunday, January 3, 2016

Roy Drives The Gamecock Truck that Runs over Arkansas

South Carolina entered its SEC conference opener against Arkansas on Sunday ranked #2 and undefeated at 12-0.  Combined with the men's basketball team's 13-0 start and Columbia, South Carolina was home to the best combined women's and men's college basketball teams' record in the country at 25-0.  This was not lost on the 13,407 fans in attendance at Colonial Life Arena, which was pretty much the same size crowd for the men's win over Memphis the day prior.

While Dawn Staley's Gamecocks entered Sunday's contest humming along, the Razorbacks seemingly have found themselves having won their last two contests.  Before that though, Arkansas had lost eight of their eleven non conference games.  Of all the SEC teams, only LSU also had a losing record entering Sunday.

Jimmy Dykes is in his second season of head coaching Arkansas.   Dykes came to the Razorbacks from a college basketball analyst position with ESPN and the Arkansas job was his first ever women's basketball coaching position.  But prior to his solid work at ESPN (he was one of my favorite college basketball analysts along with Mark Adams),  Dykes had a long history of being an assistant coach under several different men's basketball college programs, including three times under Eddie Sutton, his former coach at Arkansas.  He even was a scout in the NBA for three years before joining ESPN.

In his first season, Dykes took the Razorbacks to just their second NCAA Tournament in eleven seasons and even won their first round game over Northwestern.  He brought in the #20 recruiting class in the country for his second season.  But his young team struggled in a tough non conference schedule and entered the game with a 5-8 record. 

As has been the case often with the Gamecocks this season, South Carolina started out slow and struggled from the field, missing on ten of their first twelve field goal attempts.  Tina Roy had several open looks early on from the outside but couldn't knock them down.  Her effort would be rewarded later though.

Arkansas worked hard on both ends of the court, especially defensively and actually had the lead at 9-7 before Khadijah Sessions tied the game with a layup. The Razorbacks actually made four of their first nine field goal attempts.  The first quarter ended in a nine all tie.

From there, everything went downhill for Dykes and the Razorbacks.  Downhill real fast.

The Gamecocks started the second quarter with nine straight points.  Tiffany Mitchell buried a three pointer, then Roy followed with one of her own.  After South Carolina forced a shot clock violation on Arkansas, Roy buried her second three pointer and just like that the score was 18-9 South Carolina.

Arkansas would get a three pointer of their own by Jordan Danberry to cut the lead to six, 18-12.  That was as close as Arkansas would get the rest of the way.

The Gamecocks would score the next eleven points as Alaina Coates and A'ja Wilson would combine for eight of those points and Mitchell would add her second three pointer of the game.  South Carolina was now up 29-12 with 4:15 left in the quarter.

The Razorbacks best player, Jessica Jackson, ended the Gamecocks run with her second basket of the game to make the score 29-14.  Jackson would only score two more baskets the rest of the way.  Arkansas would score another basket on a Devin Gosper jumper, to cut the score to thirteen, 29-16.

From there, the Gamecocks would go on another run, this time a 15-2 spurt over the last three plus minutes of the second quarter.  South Carolina's reserve dynamo, Bianca Cuevas, led the spurt with eight points including knocking down a three to end the half with the Gamecocks up 44-18.

At the half, my friend and fellow Mid Majority 800 Games recap writer, Ian McCormick, joined me at my season tickets seats since my older son Matthew decided to stay at home.  Matt missed one heck of a second half start for the Gamecocks.

At the start of the second half, South Carolina picked up right where they left off, scoring the first sixteen points of the third quarter.  The Gamecocks hit on six of their first seven shots, including four three pointers, one by Sessions, and three by Roy.   Roy's fifth three pointer of the game gave South Carolina a 60-18 lead.

After Keiryn Swenson briefly ended the Gamecocks run with a basket, Roy responded with her sixth three pointer of the day, giving South Carolina a truly commanding 63-20 lead.  Dawn Staley was so impressed, she had to call timeout, perhaps to give her shooters a breather.

The timeout didn't cool off Roy.  She would nail her seventh three pointer later to cap the Gamecocks scoring for the third quarter.  After three quarters, South Carolina was up 73-25.

In the last ten minutes of the game, South Carolina made a concerted effort to get the ball to Coates and Wilson, who made the most of their scoring opportunities.  They combined to score nine of the Gamecocks twelve fourth quarter points.   South Carolina would again hold Arkansas under ten points for the fourth straight quarter, winning the game 85-32.  Now both South Carolina basketball teams were 13-0 on the season.

The Gamecocks had five players in double figures scoring and nearly a sixth with Sarah Imovbioh chipping in nine points.  Roy led all scorers with twenty one points, all on three pointers.  Wilson and Coates each notched double doubles.  Wilson had fourteen points and ten rebounds while Coates had eleven points and ten rebounds. Mitchell had twelve points and Cuevas added ten points.

Despite the wretched start, the Gamecocks shot fifty two percent from the field and forty seven percent from beyond the arc (11 of 23).  They had fifteen offensive rebounds and eighteen assists.   They held the Razorbacks to twenty four percent from the field and Arkansas only hit on one of their twelve three point attempts.  No player on the Razorbacks scored in double figures.  Jackson had nine points and Melissa Wolff had nine for Arkansas.  South Carolina forced eighteen Arkansas turnovers.  The only negative stat for the Gamecocks was that they were 8 of 13 from the charity stripe.  

Afterwards, Jimmy Dykes had to feel that his team was run over by a tractor trailer truck.  If he wanted to know the license plate number, it was South Carolina 23.

That's the jersey worn by Tina Roy.

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