Gamecocks Roll Past Auburn Despite Welch Injury

By Justin Warlick 1/3/2015 |

Dawn Staley said at the beginning of the season that her team would receive the best shot from each opponent every time out on the court. South Carolina already survived tough games earlier this season, a four point win over Syracuse in the Bahamas, and one point win over a ranked Duke team during the non-conference portion of the schedule.   

The absence of senior Aleighsa Welch who left mid-way through the second half with a neck sprain following a missed block attempt. Welch was taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons. They survived their toughest test to date downing Auburn 77-58, but not before Auburn made the game very interesting following Welch’s absence from the game. 

Auburn went on a 16-4 run to cut the lead to eight points before senior Oliva Gaines hit a jumper, and a layup by freshman Bianca Cuevas lead to a technical foul called on Auburn Head Coach Terri 

Williams-Flournoy helped the Gamecocks continue a 10-0 run to put the game away. Aja Wilson who struggled most of the game had the big basket to close the run following a missed lay-up from Tiffany Mitchell. 

Staley could see how the absence affected her team as the Gamecocks played emotional and let the game get out of their control which helped sparked the Auburn run.

“Things settled down, and I thought we did a good job of putting the pressure back on Auburn,” Staley said. “We play in a league where you can’t not take your foot of the gas.”

Dawn Staley following the win commented on the spark the Goose Creek, SC native provides for the team following the win.

“She is extremely important to our team,” Staley said. “For all the intangible things she brings to us, and obviously for the tangible things she brings.  She brought a lot of energy, and we were feeding off her energy.”

Welch, the official team leader and inspiration on the court, scored 10 points to lead South Carolina (13-0, 1-0) to a 34-17 halftime lead. The first half was a typical South Carolina half for the most part, the team scored the first nine points of the game off of turnovers.  The key play in the beginning run was steal and a fast break basket by Khadijah Sessions who was fouled on the play, made it 5-0 Gamecocks.

Auburn (9-5, 0-1) finally got on the board following a three-pointer by Neydja Petithomme, but Auburn would not reach double digits on the scoreboard till the 4:36 mark left in the first half as they shot 28% for the half. 

Staley did provide an update on her injured star player following the game, and her status for a Sunday road trip to face No. 8 LSU.

“We are still waiting to her prognostics.  Aleighsa is tough, if she is able to play, she will play. If not, we will have to replace her. It will be tough but we got to try.”  

By Justin Warlick 1/3/2015