St. Thomas, USVI, United States (4E Sports) – Sophomore Aleighsa Welch tallied 16 points and 11 rebounds to carry South Carolina to a hard-fought 45-34 victory over Hampton in the first game of the US Virgin Islands Paradise Jam Thursday at Virgin Islands Fitness Center.
Welch scored 12 of her output in the second half while Ashley Bruner added five markers and 12 rebounds to help the Gamecocks protect an immaculate 5-0 record and hand the Pirates their first loss in five games.
Tiffany Mitchell scored seven and Ieasia Walker added six for the Gamecocks, who limited Hampton’s top scorer Keiara Avant to single digits for the first time this season.
Avant, who entered the game averaging 22.0 points per outing, was limited to eight on 1-for-9 shooting. Alyssa Bennett carried the scoring load for the Pirates with 13 points and eight boards while Nicole Hamilton added six markers.
The Gamecocks made 15 of 46 attempts for 32.6 percent and limited the Pirates to 11-for-57 shooting for 19.3 percent, tied for fifth-lowest by an opponent in Gamecock women’s basketball history.
South Carolina won the rebounding battle, 57-31, but committed 28 turnovers against jus 13 by the Pirates.
The two teams were hounded by poor shooting in the first half, combining for just 21 field goals as the Gamecocks took a 19-13 advantage at the break.
Mitchell put South Carolina up 5-0 with a 3-pointer but Hampton pulled within 5-4 before a four-minute scoring drought set in.
Bruner buried a jumper and Asia Dozier made a three-pointer from top of the key to put the Gamecocks ahead by 10-4.
The Gamecocks did not stop there as they strung up three straight baskets– a layup by Mitchell, a putback by Welch and a three-pointer from Wilka Montout – to take a 17-6 advantage.
Hampton answered with six straight points but could only draw within six at the break.
In the second half, Welch scored six straight points to give the Gamecocks a 25-15 advantage.
South Carolina extended its lead to 36-21 before the Lady Pirates took advantage of repeated trips to the free throw line to draw within nine with 7:17 remaining in the game.