No. 1 USC takes down Ole Miss; without Cardoso next 2 games


COLUMBIA - Kamilla Cardoso scored 13 of her 17 points in the final two quarters as No. 1 South Carolina won its 19th straight over Mississippi with a 85-56 victory Sunday.

Cardoso, the 6-foot-7 leading scorer and rebounder for Gamecocks (21-0, 9-0 Southeastern Conference), picked up two fouls less than four minutes into the game and went to the bench. She played just nine minutes in the first half.

Cardoso was her dominant self when she got back in helping South Carolina to a 16-2 run that spanned halftime to take control and extend its program record to 52 straight wins at home.

"She's a difference maker," Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley said. "She needs to get more and more comfortable being the focal point."

And it took Cardoso to help turn a nail-biter into South Carolina's latest blowout.

The Rebels (16-6, 6-3) were within 32-31 on Kharyssa Richardson's foul shot with 3:17 left before the break.

Cardoso started the surge with an inside bucket, her first of the game, before Tessa Johnson added a 3-pointer and MiLaysia Fulwiley's extended right-arm flip shot in the final seconds put the Gamecocks ahead 40-31.

South Carolina picked it back up in the third quarter, with Te-Hina Paopao hitting a three and Cardoso adding two more buckets for a 48-33 lead.

Ole Miss, which has not beaten the Gamecocks since the 2010 SEC Tournament, could not answer.

Fulwiley scored 14 points while Paopao and Ashlyn Watkins finished with 11 points each for South Carolina. Watkins added 10 rebounds for her second consecutive game with a double-double.

Watkins was starting her second straight game, cracking the lineup due to Chloe Kitts' illness. "I just played to my full potential and showed that I can do that," said Watkins, a 6-3 sophomore who has the only two dunks in program history.

"I knew that my team needed my rebounds and stuff," she said. "So I made an effort to play like that."

Madison Scott had 17 points to lead the Rebels, who saw their four-game win streak this season snapped.


The Gamecocks will miss Cardoso for the next few games.

Staley said Cardoso is leaving to join the Brazilian national team for its Olympic qualifying event this week and will miss the Gamecocks next two games at home against Missouri on Thursday night and No. 11 UConn on Feb. 11.

"We want the best players on our team," Staley said. "But sometimes the best players are the best players that represent another country. When we recruited her, we said if there's an opportunity to go with your national team, go with your national team."

Brazil is hosting one of the four-team tournaments that serve as Olympic qualifiers. The Brazilians have a tough pool with Germany, Serbia and Australia in the group. The top three teams qualify for the Paris Games this summer.

"It only makes us feel good," said Staley, who was the U.S. Olympic coach for the Tokyo Games in 2021.

Cardoso, at 6-foot-7, has been the best player on the Gamecocks and a top candidate for Southeastern Conference player of the year, averaging 13.7 points and 10 rebounds a game this season.


Mississippi: Rebels coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin has her team pushing for a third straight NCAA Tournament trip, something that had not happened since Van Chancellor did it from 1994-96. But Ole Miss still does not have enough to challenge the Gamecocks.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks have won eight of their nine SEC games by double digits. The lone exception came last month at LSU, where they rallied from 11 points down for a 76-70 win over the defending national champions.


Mississippi coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin said she was not going to yell and scream at her team after its second-half fold against the Gamecocks. "Has anyone else beaten them?" she said. "We're just part of the community."


Mississippi hosts Texas A&M on Thursday night.

South Carolina hosts Missouri on Thursday night.