COLUMBIA -- En route to a career-high 31 points, South Carolina freshman Jordan Jones broke the WNIT record and tied the school record with nine 3-pointers as the Gamecocks overpowered North Carolina A&T 102-74 in the first round of the Women's National Invitational Tournament.
After a slow start, the Gamecocks rolled off a 10-2 run to go up by three with 12:34 left on the clock.
The Aggies (25-8) put together a rally of their own with a 16-6 surge that narrowed the margin to three with just two minutes left in the half. After pushing the halftime lead up to 10 points, South Carolina took command of the game with a 23-2 start in the first six minutes of the second period.
The Gamecocks (16-15) will travel to North Carolina State for a second-round game on Monday at 7 p.m.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
N.C. A&T jumped out to an eight-point lead right out of the gate, forcing the Gamecocks into three turnovers in their first five possessions.
Brionna Dickerson, who scored 25 points in the game, stopped the bleeding with the Gamecocks' first 3-pointer of the night to cut the deficit to 14-9.
After a Samone Kennedy steal, Demetress Adams hit a shot jumper from the right block off a feed from Ilona Burgrova at the high post.
Ebony Jones swiped a steal on the Aggies' next possession and kicked the ball ahead to the speedy Kennedy, whose layup at the 14:17 mark had the Aggies' lead quickly down to one. Lonise Coulter hit a layup for N.C. A&T, but it was only a temporary stemming of the tide.
Adams hit back-to-back buckets to give South Carolina its first lead of the night, and a layup from Kennedy made it a 19-16 Gamecock advantage with 12:34 left in the half.
As the Aggies continued to miss shots, the Gamecock lead quickly grew to double digits, reaching 13 points on Adams' steal and driving layup with 7:19 to go in the period. But N.C. A&T was not done.
A Gamecock turnover led to a Britta Taylor-James jumper, which kicked off the 16-6 comeback for the Aggies.
Amber Bland hit 1-of-2 free throws, and Lamona Smalley drove for a layup to pull A&T within eight at 35-27.
A 3-pointer from Jordan Jones, who had started the night 0-3 from behind the arc, pushed the margin back to 11, but the Aggies forced four straight turnovers and netted the next seven points to get within 38-32 at the 2:53 mark.
Jones buried another 3-pointer from the right wing, but Bland hit a long jumper from the top of the key and Tyronnica Alford's layup at 2:15 had the Aggies within three at 41-38.
With Jones now firing with the hot hand, the Gamecocks kicked the offense back into gear.
A 3-pointer from the right sideline got the lead back to six, and Kennedy pushed it to eight with a runner in the lane.
Jones capped the Gamecocks' highest-scoring half of the season with a mid-range jumper to send South Carolina into the locker room up 48-38.
South Carolina opened the second half on a tear, particularly as Jones started feeling it from outside the arc. A 10-point lead grew to 31 in the first six minutes of the half.
• KENTUCKY 68, MIDDLE TENNESSEE 66 -- Kentucky held on for a 68-66 overtime victory against Middle Tennessee.
Kentucky (16-15) moves on to play the winner of the Indiana-James Madison game, which is at 7 p.m. Saturday night. Kentucky will host that game either Wednesday or Thursday.
Middle Tennessee (22-12), which led by nine points in the first half and hit a critical shot late in the second to send the game into overtime, was led by Amber Holt, who scored 32 points.
• FLORIDA GULF COAST 67, SOUTH FLORIDA 65 -- In other first round games, Florida Gulf Coast earned its first Division I postseason victory.
FGCU (22-8), which finished second in the Atlantic Sun in its first year as a Division I program, now travels to play at 7 p.m. Monday against Florida.