No. 10 South Carolina women top Winthrop 69-61

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 20, 2013 at 2:35 pm •  Published: December 20, 2013

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Tiffany Mitchell doesn't mind having the ball in her hands at the biggest moments for No. 10 South Carolina.

"She would want to take those shots and more if it was up to her," Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley said, with a smile.

Mitchell scored 20 points, including a crucial basket to thwart Winthrop's late charge in a 69-61 victory Friday. Mitchell was on target against the Eagles of the Big South Conference, making 7 of 9 field goals. Four of those were 3-pointers, including one where she got fouled and converted the free throw for a four-point play.

Her biggest basket, though, came after Winthrop cut a 19-point lead down to 61-57 in the final four minutes, her jump shot increasing the Gamecocks lead to eight points. The Eagles could get no closer than five points the rest of the way.

"I think (Staley) is most comfortable, when we need big shots, to put the ball in my hands," said Mitchell, a 5-foot-9 sophomore guard. "Not necessarily to have me shooting the ball, but to get people open as well."

Mitchell said the other go-to player is Aleighsa Welch, who added 14 points on 4 of 7 shooting.

The Gamecocks looked like they'd make easy work of Winthrop in the noon game, rushing out to a 14-0 lead in front of grade-school children on holiday break. South Carolina eventually led 33-14.

That's when Winthrop, a 20-win team last year, turned up its defense and nearly stole one from the Gamecocks.

"I actually think we relaxed a little bit on them and they came and slapped us in the face," Tiffany Davis said. "Kind of unexpected."

Erica Williams' jumper with 4:34 left drew Winthrop to 59-55. Mitchell then added a bucket to increase South Carolina's lead.

Schaquilla Nunn's put-back brought Winthrop within four points before Asia Dozier's two foul shots and Mitchell's jumper extended the margin to 65-57 with 1:55 to play.

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