Posted: Dec 22, 2013 1:45 PM
Updated: Dec 22, 2013 1:46 PM
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Alaina Coates needed to figure out a few things in an up-and-down freshman season for No. 10 South Carolina. There aren't too many coaches better at hammering home the right message than the Gamecocks' fiery Hall of Famer Dawn Staley.
Coates, who had scored a total of five points in her three previous games, had a career-high 23 on perfect shooting to lead the Gamecocks to their 21st straight win over South Carolina State, 70-26 on Sunday.
"I had a talk with coach Staley and we got some things straight," said Coates, a 6-foot-4 center who was a McDonald's All-America at Dutch Fork H.S., not far from campus.
Staley, inducted into the Nasmith Memorial Hall of Fame in September, was known for his focus and single-minded desire for success, even as a freshman at Virginia in 1988-89. She understands freshmen lose their way at times, unaccustomed to the daily demands of what it takes to play winning basketball.
"I guess she straightened some things out," Staley said. "She's in control of the effort she puts out on the floor. Alaina just has to understand the talent and ability that she has."
There was no doubting that against overmatched South Carolina State (1-8).
Coates hit all seven of her field goal attempts and was 9 of 9 from the free throw line. She realized as the second half wore on she hadn't missed, but said that gave her more confidence to continue her run.
"It felt good out there," she said.
Coates finished with five rebounds and three of the team's five blocked shots. The Gamecocks (11-1) went on a 19-0 run in the first half and a 24-2 run to start the second.
Elem Ibiam had nine points and nine rebounds for South Carolina, which has one nonconference game left Savannah State on Dec. 28 before opening Southeastern Conference play at Arkansas on Jan. 2.
"I think we're in a good place right now heading into the hardest part of the year," South Carolina forward Aleighsa Welch said.
Mykala Jones had seven points to lead the Lady Bulldogs, who have played just one of nine games at home with losses at Clemson and Georgia. Their previous fewest points was in their lone win, 43-41 over Presbyterian.
"It's been a daunting schedule, so I can accept a little bit of fatigue, but I can't accept this lashing we got today," South Carolina State coach Doug Robertson Jr. said.
South Carolina State was held to under 25 percent shooting (12 of 49), which included a 2-of-19 showing from 3-point range. Leading scorer Kourtney Williams, who averaged 18.8 points coming, was held to six points on 3-of-14 shooting.
South Carolina was looking to clean up the defense that nearly let the Gamecocks down the previous game as they watched Winthrop cut a 19-point lead to 61-57 in the final minutes before holding on for a 69-61 victory.
South Carolina's first big run made it 29-6.
Cherisha Floyd drew the Lady Bulldogs within 10-6 on a basket about 5 minutes in when the Gamecocks took off. Coates and Tina Roy fueled the charge. Coates had an inside basket and Roy followed with a 3-pointer as South Carolina took an 18-6 lead.
Roy hit a jumper and Coates followed with a three-point play and two free throws to increase the lead to 27-6. The Gamecocks led 37-12 at halftime.
The Lady Bulldogs made two of their first three shots, then made just four of 23 the rest of the half. They were held scoreless for nearly 9 minutes and were 0 for 7 from behind the arc.
The Lady Bulldogs begin play in the MEAC and return home for the first time in more than five weeks when they face Maryland-Eastern Shore on Dec. 30.