No. 1 South Carolina tops fifth-ranked UConn 81-77
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — In a rematch of last season’s national championship game, South Carolina came out on top again over UConn thanks to a strong fourth quarter by Aliyah Boston.
Boston scored 23 of her 26 points in the second half, including 14 in the final period, to help the No. 1 Gamecocks beat the fifth-ranked Huskies 81-77 on Sunday.
— South Carolina Women’s Basketball (@GamecockWBB) February 5, 2023
“Aliyah is just relentless, she plays relentlessly although she had a subpar (first half) as far as statistics, she impacted the game,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “She doesn’t get flustered. she knew she didn’t play up to her standards. What does she do? Raise her standard. Bad first half or not she’s going to continue to play.”
The Gamecocks (23-0) have won 29 consecutive games since losing to Kentucky in the SEC Tournament title game last year.
They’ve won four of the past five meetings with the Huskies, including a victory in the NCAA championship game last season. That ended UConn’s perfect 11-0 record in title games.
Now South Carolina finally has a win in Connecticut.
“This was a national championship-like game. I wanted us to feel what it takes to do this.”
The game was played in front of a sellout crowd — the first at the XL Center since 2017.
“It was a great atmosphere. Felt like we were back in the tournament,” Boston said.
South Carolina used its size again to top the Huskies. The 6-foot-7 Kamilla Cardoso and Boston, the reigning AP Player of the Year helped the Gamecocks have a 42-30 advantage on the boards, including grabbing 25 offensive rebounds.
Boston finished with 11 rebounds for the 76th double-double of her career. Cardoso added 17 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.
With her team leading by four in the fourth quarter, Boston took over. She scored the next 12 points for South Carolina, two of those came when UConn coach Geno Auriemma, frustrated with the officiating, got a technical foul for spiking a water bottle onto the court.
“I thought there were a lot of things being overlooked. It was difficult for some of our guys to move out on the floor,” Auriemma said. “I didn’t think it was one key play, I just couldn’t keep quiet any longer. It was bad. … Dumb mistake by me. Bad decision.”
Boston hit the two free throws. She then hit a jumper, a 3-pointer and another basket to give the Gamecocks a double-digit advantage.
“I’m kind of in attack mode. In the second half I made more shots then I did in the first half,” Boston said.
Despite seeing their starting backcourt foul out, the short-handed Huskies (21-3) wouldn’t go away. They whittled the lead down to 80-77 with 10.8 seconds left on Aubrey Griffin’s three-point play.
Raven Johnson hit the first of two free throws a second later and UConn couldn’t convert to close out the game
“They have a lot to feel good about once they get past what it feels like to lose,” Auriemma said. “I feel better at 3 o’clock today then I did at 12 o’clock. I didn’t know how we’d respond. I knew we’d play hard and compete like hell. I didn’t know who was going to make a big play, who was going to get a big rebound, make a big shot. I know now more than I did at noon and I feel better about my team.”
Aaliyah Edwards led UConn with 25 points.
UConn got off to a solid start, outscoring South Carolina 25-14 in the opening period. Lou Lopez Senechal capped the strong start, hitting a running 3-pointer just before the buzzer.
South Carolina asserted its size in the second quarter with Cardoso scoring 11 points in the period. Her putback with just under 10 seconds left tied the game at 34 heading into the half.
The pace, the looks, the moves, the finish … what a game! pic.twitter.com/ABC34FTScc
— South Carolina Women’s Basketball (@GamecockWBB) February 6, 2023
- The Gamecocks tied a program record with their 29th-straight win, dating back to the loss in the 2022 SEC Tournament title game. The original 29-game streak spanned exactly one year from Nov. 29, 2019, to Nov. 29, 2020.
- While South Carolina entered the game having won three of the last four against the Huskies, Sunday marked the Gamecocks’ first win in Connecticut.
- South Carolina had a tremendous second quarter, bouncing back from a 25-14 deficit to outscore the Huskies 20-9 and tie things up at the half at 34 apiece.
- Aliyah Boston exploded in the second half, putting up 23 of her season-high 26 points, in the final 20 minutes, including shooting 8-of-11 after not hitting a field goal in the first half. She went on her own 9-3 run in the fourth quarter highlighted by a 3-pointer to give the Gamecocks their largest lead of the game at 12 with two minutes remaining.
- Boston added 11 rebounds for the game – eight in the second half – for her 75th career double-double.
- Kamilla Cardoso earned her fifth double-double of the season with her SEC career-high 17 points and 11 rebounds. Eleven of her points came in a 15-7 run in the second quarter, including the final game tying layup at the end of the first half.
- Raven Johnson set a new career high 14 points and seven assists and had no turnovers in 36 minutes of action. She scored in every quarter with a three in the fourth period, and tallied the final point of the day for the Gamecocks on a free throw.
Dawn Staley now has wins against Geno Auriemma and Tara VanDerveer — the two winningest coaches in WCBB — in consecutive seasons.
Per @ESPNStatsInfo, the only other head coach to accomplish this was Pat Summitt.
Another reminder of just how much Staley has impacted the sport. pic.twitter.com/S0btpvvXfA
— Sean Hurd (@seanahurd) February 5, 2023