Boston leads No. 1 South Carolina to 74-54 win over Kentucky
AP Sports Writer
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – Aliyah Boston had 18 points and 15 rebounds as No. 1 South Carolina improved to 8-0 against ranked opponents this season with a 74-54 victory over No. 21 Kentucky on Sunday.
Boston, the 6-foot-5 junior All-American, was nearly unstoppable around the basket – she had 10 points and eight boards by halftime – and matched the school mark with her ninth straight game with double-figure points and rebounds.
Boston added five blocks and helped on defense against Kentucky star scorer Rhyne Howard, who made the game’s first bucket but went on to finish 2-of-14 shooting for a season-low-tying nine points. Howard came in second in the Southeastern Conference in scoring, averaging 19.7 points.
Zia Cooke had a game-high 19 points as the Gamecocks (15-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) won their fifth straight over Kentucky (8-4, 1-1) and third in a row since their lone loss, 70-69 in overtime at Missouri in Dec. 30.
Robyn Benton had 11 points for the Wildcats.
Kentucky came in off an 84-76 win over No. 15 Georgia this past Thursday and was firing quickly with four 3-pointers to take an 18-14 lead eight minutes in.
After that, it was all South Carolina, which outscored the Wildcats 27-9 the final 12 minutes of the opening half.
Boston’s inside basket to start the second quarter put the Gamecocks ahead for good and Cooke had two driving layups to extend the lead.
Freshman Bree Hall had a 3-pointer and another jumper while Victaria Saxton had a pair of putbacks. When Destanni Henderson hit a jumper with just over a minute left, the Gamecocks led by 16 points on their way to a 41-27 halftime edge.
For the Wildcats, Howard opened strongly with a decisive driving basket to go with four rebounds and three assists in the opening quarter. But Howard, who came in averaging nearly 21 points in her 32 career games against ranked teams, missed the final six shots of the half.
Her struggles continued after the break as Howard missed three of four foul shots in the third quarter. She led the team with eight rebounds and six assists.
- Now winning 14 of the last 15 meetings, South Carolina leads the all-time series against Kentucky 36-34. In the Dawn Staley era, the Gamecocks are 20-10 against the Wildcats.
- Along with celebrating her 21st birthday, junior Zia Cooke also celebrated another solid game on offense, scoring a team-high 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the floor. Cooke is averaging 18 points per game in South Carolina’s last three wins, shooting 45.6 percent in those games.
- Dawn Staley‘s 155 SEC victories passes Gary Blair for the most among active league coaches and she achieved it in five fewer seasons.
- Kentucky finished the first half shooting 5-7 from 3 but just 6-28 from inside the 3-point line (21.4 percent). Conversely, the Gamecocks hit 16-29 from inside and just 2-11 from 3. For the game, the Wildcats made 26.4 percent of their two-point field goals to compared to 53.8 percent for South Carolina.
- For the game, South Carolina finished with 54 points in the paint compared to 22 for Kentucky. The +32 margin is tied with the game against N.C. A&T (46-14) for the widest the Gamecocks have all season to date, and the 54 points are a season high.
- The offense poured in 64 points in the first three quarters, thanks to a largely turnover-free effort; the Gamecocks committed just five turnovers in the first 30 minutes and finished with 12 in the game.
- Aliyah Boston led the team with 10 points and five rebounds in the first quarter, hitting 5-of-6 shots from the field. Just 18 minutes of court time was all it took to reach her ninth double-double in a row, matching a program record for most in a row in school history since it was first set in 1975 and tied in 1978.
- Boston also continued to rise in the program’s record book on Sunday, her 15 rebounds give her 845 for her career. That pushes her past Petra Ujhelyi (2000-03) for the 10th most, doing it in her 80th career game. Denise Nanney (1975-77) is the only Gamecock on the list with fewer games played, reaching 877 rebounds in just 78 career games.
- Kentucky out-rebounded South Carolina 13-12 in the first quarter, but the Gamecocks still finished with a 55-37 advantage on the boards in the game. Just one game removed from its season high of 48 rebounds at LSU on Jan. 6, South Carolina surpassed it again with the 55 rebounds (15 offensive).
- After scoring just one point in the win at LSU on Jan. 6, South Carolina’s bench made sure its presence was felt Sunday. In the team’s big second quarter, outscoring Kentucky 23-9, the Gamecock bench scored nine points and had three reserves play six or more minutes (Kamilla Cardoso, Bree Hall, Saniya Rivers). For the game, 13 different Gamecocks saw playing time.
- Kentucky’s preseason first-team All-American Rhyne Howard scored a season-low nine points on 2-14 shooting from the field Sunday, buttoned up by the combination of Brea Beal and Bree Hall. The defense also limited Wildcat point guard Jada Walker (10.8 points per game) to no points and 0-7 shooting from the field.
- Checking into the game in the first quarter, LeLe Grissett notched her 65th career SEC game played, breaking a three-way tie with Tyasha Harris (2017-20), Tiffany Mitchell (2013-16) and Ieasia Walker (2010-13) for the most in program history.
South Carolina finishes up a quick two-game home pit stop with a game against Texas A&M on Thursday, Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. The matchup with the Aggies (10-4, 0-2 SEC) will air on the SEC Network. Currently, A&M is ranked 25th in the country but have dropped both of its conference games to start the new year, losing at LSU and at Tennessee. It is opening its home SEC schedule Sunday at 3 p.m. ET against Florida.