FREEPORT, Bahamas -- With her No. 1 team struggling on offense, Dawn Staley turned to freshman A'ja Wilson to provide a spark once again.
Wilson responded, scoring 11 of her 15 points in the second half and South Carolina rallied to beat No. 22 Syracuse 67-63 in the Junkanoo Jam on Friday night.
"I thought she played extremely well, and really got jolted into playing that way," Staley said about her prized freshman. "Syracuse is a very good basketball team. They fought for 40 minutes. I just thought we came up with big play after big play. A'ja Wilson got an offensive rebound and a putback. She got a nice steal at the end of the game, and you need players like that to make big players. I'm happy that the players on our team made the big plays when we needed them."
Wilson earned MVP honors with her effort for the two-game tournament.
"When I came back in the game late, Coach Staley said don't let anyone get a rebound except for us," Wilson said. "So, I just tried my best to get every one and, if it didn't happen, to rush back on defense."
Tiffany Mitchell scored 21 points to lead the Gamecocks (5-0), who trailed by 10 with 6:43 left before rallying. They took a 60-59 lead after Khadijah Sessions' steal and layup with 3:35 left.
Briana Day hit two free throws with 2:06 left to give Syracuse (4-1) a 61-60 advantage.
Asia Dozier hit a 3-pointer 15 seconds later and after the Gamecocks forced a shot-clock violation, Tina Roy hit a layup to make it 65-61. Mitchell added a free throw after an Orange turnover to seal the win.
"We had to make a decision on what we were going to do in this game," Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said. "Their post players are the best in the country. We had to pack our zone in and do a good job keeping them off the glass. The other things we had to do was get every loose ball and 50-50 ball. I thought we did a great job on the glass."
Brianna Butler scored 18 points and Day added 13 points and 17 rebounds for the Orange.
"Briana Day was tremendous tonight," added Hillsman. "Our game plan was to give them help. We were going to crash our forwards inside, get our guards rebounding. I thought they did a good job of doing that. Our game plan worked really well."
South Carolina: Only has one more ranked opponent on the schedule -- No. 8 Duke, before the New Year. The next Top 25 team the Gamecocks would face after that game on Dec. 7 would be Kentucky on Jan. 11.
Syracuse: The Orange play their next four games at home, including the ACC-Big Ten challenge against Penn State on Thursday.
"Our kids were really resilient," Staley said. "We didn't hang our heads when we got down. We kept defending and trying to shoot them out of the zone. We got some key buckets and some key stops, and that's what it's all about."
South Carolina: host N.C. Central on Monday.
Syracuse: hosts Vermont on Monday.