Cardoso leads No. 1 South Carolina past upset-minded Vols


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Kamilla Cardoso had 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead No. 1 South Carolina past upset-minded Tennessee 66-55 on Thursday night.

Cardoso had missed two previous games while playing for Brazil in an Olympic qualifying tournament. Ashlyn Watkins added 14 points and 10 rebounds for South Carolina (24-0, 11-0 Southeastern Conference). Raven Johnson had 15 rebounds.

"Getting Kamilla the ball was so important," Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley said of Cardoso, who scored 11 in the second half. "We don't win the game without Kamilla tonight."

Rickea Jackson scored 19 points to pace Tennessee (15-9, 8-4). Sara Puckett added 15 points and Jasmine Powell 12.

"(Jackson) showed why she's going to be a top WNBA draft pick," Staley said. "We had to put an extra body on her."

"(Jackson has) been in big games before," Tennessee coach Kellie Harper said. "I think she just ran out of gas (after playing 38 minutes). She's a talent."

Tennessee led by three points at halftime and the game was tied at 48 after three quarters. South Carolina started the fourth quarter with a 9-1 run to get a bit of breathing room. Bree Hall had five points in that outburst.

"We weren't as aggressive as we needed to be in the fourth quarter," said Harper. "It got away from us on the offensive boards."

"We knew we had to get stops," Watkins said of the start of the fourth quarter. "(Tennessee was) a physical team. We had to find a way to get more rebounds and play better defense."

The Lady Vols struggled from long distance, shooting just 2 of 17 (12%) on 3-pointers.

South Carolina had a nightmare of a first half. The Gamecocks had nine turnovers and shot 33% (10 of 30).

"Offensively, we couldn't get anything going," Staley said of the first 20 minutes. "They were locked in. They rattled us. It was hard to get good looks."

Tennessee led 28-25 behind 13 points from Jackson. The Vols shot 31% (13 of 42) and 11% (1 of 9) from 3-point range.

"We felt like we were very prepared and locked in," Puckett said of the first half. "It was just another game for us."


South Carolina: The Gamecocks won handily in Cardoso's absence, winning twice, including an 18-point victory over UConn.

Tennessee: If the Lady Vols are going to maintain their streak of never missing an NCAA Tournament, February will need to be a special month. Before Thursday night's loss to the Gamecocks, Tennessee ranked No. 44 in the NCAA Evaluation Tool, which is used in the selection process. It was projected as a No. 11 seed in the tournament. Tough games at Vanderbilt, home with No. 13 LSU and Texas A&M, then the regular-season finale at South Carolina remain.


South Carolina: Host Georgia on Sunday.

Tennessee: Face Vanderbilt in Nashville on Sunday.