COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Alaina Coates can’t imagine a better post duo in the country than she has with South Carolina teammate A’ja Wilson.
She’ll get no argument from Clemson after the two combined for 39 points, 20 rebounds, seven asissts - mostly to each other - and six blocks in the sixth-ranked Gamecocks’ 83-61 victory Thursday night.
“The high-low is great,” Coates said. “I mean, we’ve got the best high-low duo in the nation. The fact is we’re doing better getting each other the ball.”
And the overmatched Tigers (8-2) had little chance of preventing it as South Carolina (8-1) won its seventh straight in the rivalry series.
“They have a ton of weapons and they’re really tough,” Clemson coach Audra Smith said. “The inside game is impossible” to stop.
Wilson finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Coates had 19 points and 10 rebounds for her sixth double-double in nine games this season.
Wilson and Coates combined for six points when South Carolina came out of the break with a 17-6 run. The Tigers (8-2) could not respond.
South Carolina’s rivalry win streak ties the longest in series history, matching the run Clemson had from 1996 through 2001. Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley also improved to 4-0 over her former college teammates at Virginia, Clemson’s Smith.
Wilson added four assists and two blocks while Coates added three assists, two steals and four of South Carolina’s season-high 11 blocked shots. Kaela Davis had 17 points for South Carolina.
Nelly Perry had 20 points to lead the Tigers. They lost their second in a row after opening 8-0.
Clemson was shorted-handed before things started with its two leading rebounders in forward Kobi Thornton and Aliyah Collier limited by injuries. Thornton was out after hitting her head Monday night in loss to No. 25 Oregon. Collier, who averaged 7.9 rebounds this season, played just three minutes because of continuing knee problems.
Smith said she expected Collier back for her next game. Thornton, who had returned from a concussion when she hit her head again, could take a bit longer.
THE BIG PICTURE
Clemson: The Tigers started the season 8-0 against non-Power Five opponents. The Tigers, though, have lost their past two to No. 25 Oregon (87-59) on Monday night and the rival, sixth-ranked Gamecocks. While Clemson has improved - it’s already doubled its four-win season from 2015-16, it is not yet ready to consistently play toe-to-toe with its better opponents. And there are plenty of those coming up once Atlantic Coast Conference play starts next month.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks certainly don’t look like the team yet that’s rolled to the past three Southeastern Conference titles. Their post duo of 6-foot-5 Wilson and 6-4 Coates are strong and engaged. On the perimeter, though, there are questions. Kaela Davis and Allisha Gray have looked like All-Americans sometimes and been non factors at others. Point guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore has also struggled at taking over the on-court leadership role that Khadijah Sessions handled so well the previous few years.
Talk about differing ways to win. The Gamecocks used 16 3-pointers (second best in program history) to blow past Minnesota last Sunday. This time, South Carolina made just four of 14 long-range baskets while relying on its inside advantage to defeat Clemson. “We’ve got a lot of ways to win,” Staley said. “We’ve got to take advantage of them.”
Staley and Smith were roommates for a short stretch at Virginia in the late 1980s until Staley’s night-owl tendencies did not mesh with Smith’s early-to-bed style. Each sought more suitable people to live with. But they’ve remained good friends since college and Staley was impressed with Smith’s building program. “I’m happy for her and the program,” Staley said. “Even though they’re our rivals, we want to see all South Carolina teams do well.”
Clemson returns home to face South Carolina State on Sunday.
South Carolina closes a three-game home stand against No. 9 UCLA on Sunday.
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