COLUMBIA, S.C. — At almost every game these days, A’ja Wilson achieves a new milestone at South Carolina — and is once more reminded her stellar college career is almost done.
The 6-foot-5 senior was honored before the game for reaching 2,000 career points. In a 90-42 win over Arkansas on Thursday, Wilson she surpassed 1,000 career rebounds to power the ninth-ranked Gamecocks (17-3, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) to their third straight win.
Wilson, from Hopkins not too far from campus, is proud her achievements highlight the game in her home state. “That’s always a great thing,” she said. “But at the same time, it’s bittersweet because I know I’m on my way out of here.”
Wilson had another memorable showing with 27 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks in her first game starting since spraining her right ankle late in a win over Auburn on Jan. 11. She missed two games, including a loss to No. 10 Tennessee, then came in off the bench to score 26 points in beating Kentucky.
This time, Wilson was once more front and center for the Gamecocks. She scored four of her team’s first six points as South Carolina quickly ran past overmatched Arkansas (11-10, 2-6).
“Y’all got a good team here,” Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors said. “Is that the understatement of the night?”
The Gamecocks led 25-6 after one quarter, 44-12 at the half and kept pushing to their most lopsided SEC win since topping Alabama 93-45 on New Year’s Day 2017.
Wilson had her 13th game with double-figure points and rebounds. Teammate Alexis Jennings joined her with 22 points on 9-of-9 shooting and 10 rebounds for her fifth double-double this season. .
The Gamecocks will need all that production and fire as they enter their toughest stretch of the season: They’ll face No. 11 Missouri on Sunday, No. 1 UConn next Thursday and No. 2 Mississippi State on Feb. 5.
Arkansas had no one to match up with Wilson, Harris and the rest of the Gamecocks. Jailyn Mason had three of the Razorbacks six field goals in the opening half while her teammates were 3 of 25 combined the first two quarters.
Malica Monk had 12 points off 6-of-20 shooting to lead the Razorbacks, who’ve lost six of their past seven games.
Wilson became just the second player in program history with more than 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, joining Sheila Foster (1979-82).
“I’m taking it all in,” Wilson said. “But my main focus is my teammates. They’re helping me, they’re uplifting me each and every day.”
Arkansas: The Razorbacks have struggled at shooting the ball all season, but their first half was a low point as they went just 6 of 33 against the Gamecocks. They had not had that few field goals in an opening half all season, although they did start a loss to UTEP in November by going 0-of-15 from the field in the first quarter.
South Carolina: Wilson’s return to the lineup lifted all the Gamecock starters. Point guard Tyasha Harris had six assists and a career-best 13 rebounds, nine of those in the opening half. Jennings, the 6-foot-2 transfer forward from Kentucky, made all her shots as Arkansas’ defense keyed on Wilson.
Earlier Thursday, the NCAA turned down South Carolina’s request that Tennessee transfer Te’a Cooper should play this season instead of sitting out per the governing body’s transfer rules because Cooper missed last season with the Lady Vols due to injury. Cooper would have two seasons to play for the Gamecocks, starting next fall. South Carolina coach Dawn Staley was waiting on her compliance office to give her an exact reason for denying South Carolina’s petition. She said she would not appeal the NCAA’s decision. “But if I’m her parents, I would probably lawyer up,” Staley said, smiling.
South Carolina doubled up Arkansas in rebounds, leading 62-31. The Gamecocks had 27 offensive boards, just four fewer than the Razorbacks’ total. Nearly half of South Carolina’s points, 44, came in the paint as Arkansas’ smallish front line could not slow down Wilson and Jennings.
Arkansas returns home to play Kentucky on Monday night.
South Carolina takes on No. 11 Missouri on Sunday night.