Michael Conroy, Associated Press
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Tavelyn James put Eastern Michigan on the women's basketball map.
She just couldn't get them to the next spot.
South Carolina's suffocating defense limited James, the nation's second-leading scorer, to 11 points as it rolled to an 80-48 victory in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Without James' points, the Mid-American Conference champions just weren't themselves.
"I think it would have opened up things a lot more for some of our other players," coach AnnMarie Gilbert said. "We missed a lot of easy baskets inside. They need to make those baskets to free Tavelyn up a little bit. We didn't make those, and Tavelyn didn't make hers on the outside, which made for a terrible combination."
Eastern Michigan (23-9) shot just 26.7 percent from the field, had 17 turnovers and trailed by 25 or more for most of the second half.
For James, it certainly wasn't the ending she envisioned after the most productive career in school history. The senior had her second-lowest point total of the season, leaves with 2,461 career points, the MAC player of the year award, the league tourney's most outstanding player award and one unforgettable NCAA appearance.
Paige Redditt led Eastern Michigan with 14 points, giving her 1,001 in her career, while Natachia Watkins finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
"I would say they will need a leader, because the two leaders are leaving," James said when asked what it would take to win in the tourney. "So somebody else on the team needs to step up to make sure things that me and Paige try to get done, get done."
South Carolina (24-9) had plenty of players stepping up Saturday.
Markeshia Grant had 12 points, Charenee Stephens finished with 11 and Ashley Bruner came off the bench to add 10 for South Carolina.
South Carolina shot 53.3 percent from the field, made 5 of 19 from 3-point range and produced its highest point total of the season. The timing couldn't have been better for coach Dawn Staley's team.
On Monday night, the Gamecocks will try to add another line to their impressive resurgence by tying the school's single-season record for victories against fourth-seeded Purdue,
Staley, who led Virginia to three Final Four appearances more than two decades ago, said she expected her players to have some early jitters.
They did, and Eastern Michigan took advantage, scoring six straight points to take a 14-8 lead less than six minutes into the game against a defense that was allowing only 50.5 points a game.
But when the Gamecocks settled down, they reverted to form. South Carolina scored the next eight points to take the lead, closing the half on a 14-2 run to make it 39-23.
South Carolina put it away early in the second half, using a 9-3 spurt to take a 48-26 lead with 18:05 to play and extended the margin to as much as 36.
The Eagles spent the rest of the game futilely trying to catch up from deficits of mostly 25 or more points against a defense that wasn't going to crack.
- Cougars football team undergoing reality...
- Utah football: The Michigan Wolverines in 6...
- NFL cuts tracker (updated): Former BYU WR...
- Cougars looking for special season with...
- Amy Donaldson: Football has helped Ute...
- Damian Lillard finding success with rap...
- BYU's Mendenhall on the cusp of embarking on...
- Morning links: 'Unorthodox' Harbaugh; 'nice'...
- Morning links: Cougars, Utes to face... 92
- Guest commentary: How to spice up BYU... 63
- New York Jets waive former BYU... 31
- Guest commentary: BYU, Utah, USU... 30
- Morning links: Can Cougars snap... 26
- Cougars looking for special season with... 26
- BYU football: With opener one week... 23
- BYU basketball: What we learned from 4... 16