COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina reached 20 wins for a third-straight season and moved into solo first in the Southeastern Conference with its victory over Missouri on Sunday.
Now, the seventh-ranked Gamecocks hope the showing leads to another win, this one for the nation's top recruit.
With 6-foot-4 prep star A'ja Wilson watching from behind the bench, South Carolina (20-2, 8-1) continued its run to the top of the SEC against the overmatched Tigers (14-8, 3-6).
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.
"Just the total atmosphere," Staley said. "If you're not moved by being in the gym, you probably don't want to play high-level basketball."
That's what Staley's been building since she arrived six seasons ago. The Gamecocks have won 25 games each of the past two seasons and seem on their way to bigger things this fall, taking over the top spot in the SEC after No. 17 Texas A&M fell at No. 16 Vanderbilt 71-69 earlier Sunday.
South Carolina had been tied for first with the Aggies.
The Gamecocks — along with Wilson's final four of Connecticut, Tennessee and North Carolina — expect to find out her decision sometime after her season is over at Heathwood Hall high, just a few miles from South Carolina's campus.
Staley doesn't believe the lofty position will bother her team.
"Our team, they do a tremendous job of staying in the moment," she said. "I don't think we get too far ahead. Mississippi State is on deck (Thursday). We'll concentrate on them.
Missouri (14-8, 3-6) cut a 23-point halftime deficit to 73-60 in the final two minutes. But South Carolina proved too tall, too strong and too fast to overcome.
The Gamecocks 6-foot-4 forwards in Alaina Coates and Elem Ibiam combined for 23 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks.
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