No. 1 South Carolina wins 14th straight vs. Vanderbilt, 85-30
AP Sports Writer
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – LeLe Grissett typically brings South Carolina energy off the bench. This time, the fifth-year senior did it from the opening tip.
Grissett had seven of her season-high 14 points in the first period as the top-ranked Gamecocks opened up a big lead on Monday night on the way to their 14th straight win over Vanderbilt, 85-30.
Aliyah Boston had 11 points and 12 rebounds for her 12th straight game with a double double. But it was Grissett who got South Carolina (18-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) off to a fast start.
”It just felt really easy,” Grissett said of her early surge.
The 6-foot-2 graduate student made just her seventh start in 132 games at South Carolina. She had missed the season’s first nine games recovering from a lower right-leg injury suffered at the SEC Tournament last March.
But when coach Dawn Staley needed someone to fill in for injured Zia Cooke, she didn’t think twice before choosing Grissett.
”She’s moving a lot better,” Staley said. ”Knowing that she’s healed up and knowing the things she can do out there for us.”
Grissett scored the first basket, then added her second career 3-pointer. When she scored again next time down the court, the Gamecocks were up 11-3 and on the way to a blowout.
”We’d been working so hard, and the work actually paid off,” Grissett said.
Boston added four assists, four steals and two blocks. With South Carolina up 42-17 at the half, the lone drama was whether Boston could continue her streak with six points and four boards the first 20 minutes.
But Boston pulled down six rebounds in the third quarter and cracked double-digit scoring with a three-point play early in the final period. The bench and the crowd erupted in cheers at Boston’s accomplishment.
Staley said it was difficult to justify keep her star out there with such a lead. But when Boston returned to the bench, Staley said Boston told her, ”thank you.”
Brinae Alexander had 10 points to lead the Commodores (10-10, 1-5), who were held to their lowest point total of the season.
The Gamecocks hadn’t played since winning at Arkansas 61-52 on Jan. 16 and it looked like the break only helped.
The Commodores struggled to take shots against South Carolina’s height. Vanderbilt’s tallest players are 6-2 while South Carolina has six players at that height or taller. That’s why South Carolina had a 48-19 edge in rebounding.
Vanderbilt coach Shea Ralph was disappointed with her team’s showing.
”It’s going to be a long ride home,” she said.
- The Commodores’ 30 points are the fewest South Carolina has ever allowed to a SEC opponent and the fewest points allowed overall since Savannah State scored 30 on Dec. 21, 2016.
- Vanderbilt failed to reach double figures in any of the four quarters (8 in the 1st, 7 in the 2nd, 8 in the 3rd, 7 in the 4th). Coming into Monday night, the fewest points South Carolina had allowed in a single quarter to a SEC opponent this season was nine (vs. Kentucky). VAndy’s 15 points in each half tied with the second half vs. Elon and the first half vs. N.C. A&T for the fewest points allowed by South Carolina in a half this season.
- Junior guard Zia Cooke was unavailable for the game due to an injury suffered at Arkansas on Jan. 16. Her absence snapped an 82-game streak of consecutive games started, which was tied with Aliyah Boston for the second-longest in program history. Tiffany Mitchell holds the record with 103 consecutive starts.
- With Cooke’s absence, senior LeLe Grissett earned the start, the seventh of her career among her 132 total games wearing the Garnet and Black. It was an understatement to say she made the most of the opportunity, starting by scoring seven of the team’s first 11 points in the game to force an early timeout from Vanderbilt.
- Over 23 minutes, the Grissett piled up 14 points and five offensive rebounds, marking her highest-scoring game since posting 14 on Feb. 17, 2020, also against Vanderbilt.
- Kamilla Cardoso was the team’s scoring leader in the second quarter, hitting 3-of-4 shots from the field along with three free throws and two rebounds for the period. Led by Cardoso’s production, the Gamecock bench outscored Vanderbilt as a team in the first half, 20-15. The theme held true for all 40 minutes; the bench finished with a 42-4 margin over the Commodore’s reserves, all while shooting 71 percent as a group (15-for-21). It’s the highest-scoring game of the year for the Gamecock bench and it is the third time this season that South Carolina’s bench scored more points than the opposition’s starting lineup.
- Two freshmen contributed big while piling up key minutes Monday; Bree Hall scored a season-high 10 points with two rebounds and an assist in 16 minutes and Saniya Rivers shot 3-for-3 to tie her season high of seven points and added a rebound, a block and a steal in 17 minutes.
- With the Commodores content to pack the paint with all five defenders at times, the Gamecocks were able to counter with a balanced attack from deep. Six different players hit a 3 in the game and the team finished the game with 8-of-18 makes from beyond the arc. The eight made 3s are tied for a season high.
- The success from 3 fueled a season-best shooting night overall for South Carolina, which finished with a 58.2 percent success rate over 55 shots. That surpasses the previous high of 57.6 against Buffalo on Nov. 20.
- The offense’s efficiency was based thanks to a ‘you first’ mentality. The Gamecocks had 20 assists on 32 made baskets, the second game this season with 20 or more helpers. Five individuals had two or more assists, led by four assists from Destanni Henderson, Boston and Amihere.
- Despite Vanderbilt settling inside defensively, the Gamecocks still owned a 44-4 advantage for points in the paint.
- While the Commodores made her earn every bit of it, Boston did reach her 12th consecutive double-double thanks to 11 points and 12 rebounds over 28 minutes. That now ties her with Texas A&M’s N’dea Jones and Auburn’s Unique Thompson for the second-most double-doubles in a row by a SEC player over the last 20 seasons
- The rebounding margin again was dominated by South Carolina, finishing the night with a season-high +29 (48-19). It is the fewest rebounds allowed to an opponent so far this season. The team’s third quarter rebounding margin of 17-3 is tied for the fifth-largest in program history.
Coming off the eight-day break, the Gamecocks are now in the thick of a busy week. Next up will be a home game against Ole Miss on Thursday, Jan. 27 at 6 p.m. on ESPN. It is a makeup from the postponed Jan. 2 game. The Rebels bring a 17-2 overall record to Colonial Life Arena and are ranked No. 24 in the latest Associated Press top-25 poll. To wrap the week, the team then travels to Gainesville for a noon tip at Florida on Sunday, Jan. 30. The Gators are 15-5 overall and are coming off an upset of No. 12 LSU at home on Sunday.