All the elements to celebrate women’s college basketball assembled when No. 1-ranked South Carolina visited No. 9 Duke before 6,004 fans that raised capacity-like decibels Sunday afternoon at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Trouble for the Blue Devils, though, were too many fans dressed in South Carolina’s Garnet and Black as they urged on the Gamecocks to a 51-50 victory.
“We heard them; they created a lot of energy for us,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “I don’t think we win this game if more people in the stands were Duke Blue Devils than South Carolina Gamecocks.”
The Gamecocks improved to 8-0 with the comeback victory. Duke dropped to 5-3 with its third straight loss in the last eight days despite welcoming back senior Elisabeth Williams (5 points, 8 rebounds) from missing road losses at Texas A&M and Nebraska with a foot injury.
Duke managed a 50-46 lead with 41 seconds to play when redshirt freshman Rebecca Greenwell hit two free throws after she drove the lane on a pass from Azura Stevens and was fouled.
But that was enough time for South Carolina’s Tiffany Mitchell to hit a 3-point shot well beyond the arc with 12.9 seconds. A steal off the press and timeout by backup guard Olivia Gaines with 10.9 seconds led to an offensive rebound basket by 6-foot-5 freshman A’Ja Wilson with 1.8 seconds left for the win.
“A lot of people will make a big deal about the end of the game,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “I’ll make a big deal of how we started the second half. They went on a 7-0 run and that is uncalled for. We did not come out with the right defensive intensity.”
Duke led 21-17 at halftime on a layup at the buzzer by Greenwell before the Blue Devils gave the lead back with their second-half start. South Carolina’s Asia Dozier (11 points) hit a 3-pointer followed by a Duke turnover. Wilson (10 points) posted up for field goal and Welch scored after a Duke a miss for a 24-21 lead less than two minutes into the second half.
Greenwell led Duke with 12 points. Stevens, a 6-5 freshman, scored 5 points with 12 rebounds for her fifth straight double-figure rebound performance in her second start.
“It says we had 6,000 today,” McCallie said. “But we have to grow our fan support. Those 6,000 weren’t all us.”