Gamecocks Knock Off No. 2/2 Baylor to Claim Tournament Title
ST. THOMAS, U.S.V.I. – Freshman Aliyah Boston scored a career-high 20 points and pulled down 13 rebounds as No. 5/6 South Carolina took down the No. 2/2 Baylor Lady Bears, 74-59, to end the reigning National Champs’ 36-game win streak and win the Paradise Jam Reef Division title Saturday night. While Boston and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan finished off the win, it was senior point guard Tyasha Harris’ offense and command of the team that drove the Gamecocks advantage throughout the night.
Boston finished with her fourth double-double of the season, finishing her first career 20-point game with 10 points in the fourth quarter. Harris tied Boston’s game-high 20 points on top of her seven assists, four rebounds and two steals. Herbert Harrigan finished with 13 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and two assists.
The game was nip and tuck throughout, although it featured just two ties and one lead change. On a highly efficient offensive night – 52.8 percent field goal shooting – the Gamecock defense was locked in throughout. Entering the game averaging 91.9 points per game, Baylor netted just 59 points – its lowest point total since scoring 57 against Oregon State on March 28, 2016. The Lady Bears shot just 34.8 percent from the field, including 30.0 percent in the second half, and 2-of-9 from 3-point range. Didi Richards and Queen Egbo netted just 10 points combined after entering the game averaging 10.6 and 15.3, respectively.
In a first quarter that seemed to have both teams scoring at will, Baylor jumped out to a quick 8-2 lead, but it would prove to be their largest lead of the game. The Gamecocks got rolling when Harris hit a 3-pointer from the right wing then followed it with a steal and a quick pull-up jumper to put her team right back in it at 8-7. Three minutes later, Herbert Harrigan’s 3 from the left wing knotted the game at 14-14 with 3:58 to go in the opening quarter.
Baylor reclaimed the lead on a 5-2 run, but Destanni Henderson added a 3 to tie the game at 19-19 and open a 10-0 run that gave the Gamecocks a 26-19 lead less than three minutes into the second quarter. Defensively, the surge included four Lady Bear turnovers – three of which came courtesy of a Gamecock steal – and an emphatic Boston block that brought her hometown crowd to its feet. The Gamecock lead stretched to 10 at 38-28 before Baylor made its run, taking advantage of a spate of South Carolina turnovers to cut the deficit to three at 38-35 at the half.
After Harris finished the first half with 13 points and four assists, she continued to hit key baskets in the second half. After Baylor closed within two points a 42-40 midway through the third quarter, ball movement found her open for a moment in the corner, from which she buried her second 3-pointer of the game to give her young team some breathing room.
When Baylor threatened again with 90 seconds left in the third quarter, another Gamecock with championship experience drove the Lady Bears back as Herbert Harrigan hit a pair of free throws to turn a one-point lead into a three-point advantage then came up with a pair of defensive rebounds to preserve that lead heading into the final period.
Baylor got within two points three more times in the opening five minutes of the fourth quarter, but the Gamecocks would not be denied. Harris found Boston for a layup to stay in front first, then hit a pair of free throws to counter a layup from Caitlin Bickle for a 52-56 lead with 7:15 to play. A Baylor 3-pointer with 6:28 on the clock again made it a two-point game, but Herbert Harrigan stemmed the tide once more, hitting back-to-back layups to key a 15-2 run – powered largely by Boston’s dominance inside and finished by a Harris layup to seal the tournament title on point differential – to close out the victory.
South Carolina’s defense held Baylor scoreless over the final 3:41 to turn the Gamecocks’ five-point advantage into the 15-point victory needed to secure the tournament’s division title, breaking the three-team tie on point differential.
South Carolina shot 66.7 percent from the field in the fourth quarter, including 4-of-4 shooting from Aliyah Boston, who turned in 10 points and six rebounds in the final period.
- Aliyah Boston was named Paradise Jam Reef Division MVP, while Mikiah Herbert Harrigan earned All-Tournament honors.
- Defeating the No. 2 team in the country matches the Gamecocks’ best victory. South Carolina previously beat then-No. 2 Mississippi State 62-51 in the 2018 SEC Tournament championship game (March 4, 2018).
- Baylor’s 59 points was its lowest scoring output since March 28, 2016.
- South Carolina is now 20-16 against top-10 opponents since the start of the 2014-15 season, which includes two top-five wins this season.
- Boston and Harris each posted their first 20-point games of the season. Boston scored 10 of hers in the fourth quarter, while Harris got the offense started with 13 of hers coming in the first half.
The Gamecocks (8-1) return to the mainland for a clash at Temple next weekend. Action is set to get underway in Philadelphia at 3 p.m. on Sat., Dec. 7.