COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — As if Missouri needed more obstacles to handle during this difficult stretch, the weather put one more in the Tigers' path.
The team bused to St. Louis when ice wouldn't allow them to fly out of Columbia, Missouri, to South Carolina's capital city. Instead of a late afternoon practice Saturday and a leisurely dinner, the Tigers didn't arrive at their hotel until after midnight.
Just what you need when facing your fourth ranked Southeastern Conference opponent in your past five games.
Still, coach Robin Pingeton was proud that her players didn't let their long travel day derail their strong second-half effort. South Carolina (20-2, 8-1 SEC) used a 23-6 run at the end of the opening half to build a 15-point lead and defeat the Tigers 78-62 on Sunday.
"I told them halftime that we can lay down and really embarrass ourselves or we can roll up our sleeves and go back to work and do what we're capable of doing," she said. "I thought the way we responded in the second half was very, very good."
Pingeton said South Carolina's size inside and accuracy on the perimeter put the Tigers (14-8, 3-6) in a hole they couldn't escape. But Missouri's felt like that a lot the past three weeks. They've fallen to Kentucky, LSU and Texas A&M — all ranked — in that stretch. They close this part of the schedule against LSU on Thursday before facing an unranked SEC opponent.
"As a staff, I think it's so important for you to have blinders on and not be evaluated just on this boxscore," Pingeton said. "I think that message has been pretty clear to our players."
South Carolina's message to the SEC about its staying power seems just as clear.
The Gamecocks reached 20 wins for a third-straight season and moved into solo first in the Southeastern Conference with its victory. And they did it with 6-foot-4 prep star A'ja Wilson watching from behind the bench.
Tiffany Mitchell had 20 points to lead six Gamecocks with double figure scoring in a game that was just as much about wooing Wilson. There were neon lime shirts with "There's No Place Like Home" on the front, a video featuring football coach Steve Spurrier, baseball coach Chad Holbrook and women's coach Dawn Staley delivering the same message and chants of "We want A'ja" from the students.