COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina coach Dawn Staley knows there’s a different, more intense feel at practice — and that’s showing in game after game this fall.
Mikiah Herbert Harrigan had a season-high 21 points and No. 6 South Carolina used a huge first quarter to roll past Appalachian State 92-50 on Sunday.
The Gamecocks outscored the Mountaineers 35-3 in the opening period, matching the fewest points they’d ever allowed in a quarter. It equaled the three given up to Belmont in the second quarter of an NCAA Tournament first-round victory last March and Savannah State in the third quarter of a December 2017 victory.
It all starts for the Gamecocks (4-0) at daily practices where her young team competes hard, Staley said.
“The will to win, to compete is there,” she said. “It’s a breath of fresh air.”
It doesn’t hurt to have the game’s No. 1 recruiting class in the lineup, either.
Things got out of hand in a hurry as Aliyah Boston, Brea Beal and Zia Cooke scored every point in South Carolina’s 9-0 start. Herbert Harrigan made three baskets and by the time Tyasha Harris hit a 3-pointer and a jumper on consecutive possessions, the Gamecocks were up 32-0.
Lainey Gosnell finally ended the drought for Appalachian State (0-3) with a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left in the period. The Mountaineers shot 1 of 18 with seven turnovers, most of them leading to easy scores for South Carolina.
Staley said the players got mad when the defense broke down on that possession, preventing the 0-for-first quarter.
“It was us playing hard on defense,” Herbert Harrigan said, “that let the offense flow.”
Things didn’t get much better for Appalachian State going forward. The Mountaineers scored only six points in the second quarter and trailed 53-9 as South Carolina emptied its bench before the break.
Appalachian State found some life in the second half, outscoring the Gamecocks 41-39 the final 20 minutes.
Ashley Polacek had 13 points to lead the Mountaineers and Gosnell had 12.
Appalachian State coach Angel Elderkin faced the Gamecocks last year and said the increase in intensity is apparent. She was pleased, though, that her players improved in the second half.
Herbert Harrigan hit 10 of 17 shots with six rebounds and four blocked shots.
Boston had her second double-double in four college games, with 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Destanni Henderson had 16 points for the Gamecocks.
Appalachian State: The Mountaineers had a rugged start to the season with losses at VCU and South Carolina, both preseason favorites in their conferences. In between was a heartbreaking, 67-66 loss in overtime to Elon. Elderkin believes this stretch will help her program when Sun Belt Conference play starts.
South Carolina: Usually defense is the last to come around with a team that has five newcomers in the rotation, but that’s not the case with the Gamecocks. They held Appalachian State to 26.9% and have not allowed an opponent, including No. 8 Maryland, to shoot better than 32% this season.
Sunday was not the first time Appalachian State had struggled to score in a quarter. The team put up a two-point second quarter in a season-opening loss to VCU and a two-point fourth quarter at Elon, a game it lost in overtime 67-66. “We’ve got to figure out how to not make that a habit,” Elderkin said.
Boston, South Carolina’s 6-foot-5 freshman, has 20 blocks in her first four college games. She added four more against Appalachian State after opening her career with 10 blocks in a win over Alabama State, part of her triple-double performance. Former Gamecocks All-America A’ja Wilson had just five blocks her first four games as a freshman.
Appalachian State opens its home season against Gardner-Webb on Friday night.
South Carolina plays USC Upstate on Thursday night.
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