- Associated Press - Sunday, November 27, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) - Dawn Staley knows her South Carolina team plays its best when the offense is balanced.

The third-ranked Gamecocks did just that to rout No. 4 Louisville 83-59 on Sunday in the Basketball Hall of Fame women’s challenge.

Alaina Coates had 17 points and 14 rebounds while A’ja Wilson and Allisha Gray also scored 17 points apiece for the Gamecocks (5-0), who turned a tight game into a blowout, using a 17-3 run spanning the half to take control.

“We’re pretty balanced offensively. They did a good job of playing off our point guards,” Staley said. “Our post players are used to playing with each other.”

South Carolina led 39-32 when Kaela Davis hit consecutive 3-pointers to expand the advantage to double digits. Fellow transfer Allisha Gray then added a three-point play with 6:42 left in the third quarter that made it 48-32 and capped the burst.

Louisville (6-1) could get only within 14 the rest of the way.

Getting strong play from Davis and Gray helps the Gamecocks, as teams can’t just focus on their talented post players.

“It’s huge for us,” Wilson said. “Our guards knocking down shots on the outside, it helps open up the high-low. That’s our thing. When the guards are hitting the outside and moving, we’re looking good.”

Mariya Moore scored 17 and Asia Durr added 13 for the Cardinals, who had cruised through their first six games. ACC player of the year Myisha Hines-Allen was saddled by foul trouble all game and didn’t score until early in the fourth quarter, when the game was already out of reach. She finished with just those two points.

“Even though we lost I think it was a great game,” Moore said. “We did a lot of great stuff and learned a lot of stuff for the future.”

The two teams got off to hot starts on offense and Louisville held a 20-18 lead after the first quarter. Foul trouble started mounting for both squads, slowing down the pace. The Gamecocks led 31-29 with 3:22 left before halftime and then scored the final six points before the break. The last three came when Coates saved a ball going out of bounds near midcourt, crashing into the announcers’ table. Mikiah Herbert Harrigan finished off the play with a basket and free throw to give the Gamecocks a 37-29 lead at the break.

BIG PICTURE

South Carolina: This is the first game of a tough three-contest stretch, with games at Texas and Duke on the horizon. … The Gamecocks are one of two teams (UConn) to be in the top five of every poll since the start of the 2014-15 season.

“It’s a great start to a tough week for us,” Staley said. “I think our players really enjoy and focus in a little more when the competition’s a little stiffer. We see them come up and play this way and rise to the level of a competitive basketball team.”

Louisville: The Cardinals won their first six games by an average of 28 points. The schedule gets a lot tougher now with Maryland, Kentucky, Western Kentucky and South Dakota State coming up.

DOUBLE-DOUBLE MACHINE

Coates has reached double figures in scoring and rebounding in four of the five games this season. She’s averaging a double-double while playing just 24 minutes.

USA EXPERIENCE

Louisville coach Jeff Walz and South Carolina coach Dawn Staley worked together on the Under-18 and Under-19 USA Basketball teams that won gold medals at the FIBA Americas and FIBA World Championship in 2014-15. Wilson was MVP of both tournaments.

UP NEXT

South Carolina: Plays at Texas on Thursday for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Louisville: Hosts Maryland on Thursday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

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