South Carolina women’s basketball escapes No. 7 Utah despite 37 points from Alissa Pili

Bench depth fueled South Carolina women’s basketball in its 78-69 win over Utah at the Basketball Hall of Fame Showcase in Unacasville, Connecticut, on Sunday.

Despite a back-and-forth game at the Mohegan Sun, the No. 1 Gamecocks (9-0) led the No. 7 Utes (8-2) wire-to-wire to earn their fourth ranked win of 2023-24. Despite a career-high 37 points from Utes star forward Alissa Pili, the South Carolina bench outscored Utah’s 26-2 as both teams grappled with foul trouble. 

The Gamecocks were led by four players scoring in double-digits, which has become a regular occurrence. Sophomore Chloe Kitts came close to her second double-double of the season with 11 points and seven rebounds, and freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley scored nine of her 11 points shooting 3-of-3 from 3-point range.

Kamilla Cardoso dominates despite foul trouble

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley has repeatedly emphasized her desire to see Kamilla Cardoso play with dominance, and the 6-foot-7 center did just that against the Utes. In her first six minutes on the court, Cardoso shot 3-of-3 from the field for seven points and grabbed three rebounds. She struggled to guard Pili in the first half but helped hold her to 16 second-half points.

However, the senior was limited by foul trouble, picking her second offensive foul two minutes into the second quarter. She added a third early in the third, but Staley took a risk leaving her in that paid off. Cardoso finished with 17 points, six rebounds and two assists in 25 minutes, shooting 6-of-9 from the field and 100% at the free throw line.

South Carolina defense can’t stop Alissa Pili

The Gamecocks’ defense was largely no match for Pili, who scored 21 points in just 12 first-half minutes after picking up a third foul early in the second quarter. The 6-2 Pili shot 15-of-23 from the field and 3-of-6 from 3-point range.

However, South Carolina restricted Utah from its usual production beyond the arc. The Utes average 43.6% from 3-point range but hit just 25% against the Gamecocks. South Carolina completed 37.5% on 3-point attempts led by Fulwiley making 100% and senior Te-Hina Paopao hitting 3-of-7.

Gamecocks still struggle to protect possession

South Carolina has now given up at least 15 turnovers in each of its last three games and 20-plus in two of those. The team combined for 23 lost possessions against Utah to the Utes’ 17, though Utah scored just 11 points off turnovers. The Gamecocks were better at capitalizing with 18 points off turnovers.

Nine of 10 South Carolina players who saw the floor recorded at least one turnover, with Cardoso, Fulwiley and Raven Johnson giving up four apiece. Utah finished with 11 steals while allowing a season-low six to the Gamecocks.

Follow South Carolina women’s basketball reporter Emily Adams on X @eaadams6 and subscribe to The Greenville News for exclusive Gamecocks content: https://subscribe.greenvilleonline.com/offers.

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