COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Alaina Coates needed to figure out a few things in an up-and-down freshman season for No. 10 South Carolina. There aren't too many coaches better at hammering home the right message than the Gamecocks' fiery Hall of Famer Dawn Staley.
Coates, who had scored a total of five points in her three previous games, had a career-high 23 on perfect shooting to lead the Gamecocks to their 21st straight win over South Carolina State, 70-26 on Sunday.
"I had a talk with coach Staley and we got some things straight," said Coates, a 6-foot-4 center who was a McDonald's All-America at Dutch Fork H.S., not far from campus.
Staley, inducted into the Nasmith Memorial Hall of Fame in September, was known for his focus and single-minded desire for success, even as a freshman at Virginia in 1988-89. She understands freshmen lose their way at times, unaccustomed to the daily demands of what it takes to play winning basketball.
"I guess she straightened some things out," Staley said. "She's in control of the effort she puts out on the floor. Alaina just has to understand the talent and ability that she has."
There was no doubting that against overmatched South Carolina State (1-8).
Coates hit all seven of her field goal attempts and was 9 of 9 from the free throw line. She realized as the second half wore on she hadn't missed, but said that gave her more confidence to continue her run.
"It felt good out there," she said.
Coates finished with five rebounds and three of the team's five blocked shots. The Gamecocks (11-1) went on a 19-0 run in the first half and a 24-2 run to start the second.
Elem Ibiam had nine points and nine rebounds for South Carolina, which has one nonconference game left — Savannah State on Dec. 28 — before opening Southeastern Conference play at Arkansas on Jan. 2.
"I think we're in a good place right now heading into the hardest part of the year," South Carolina forward Aleighsa Welch said.