Gamecocks at Tennessee Thursday
COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 1/1 South Carolina women’s basketball plays its final SEC regular-season road game on Thu., Feb. 23, when the Gamecocks take on Tennessee at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
The Tennessee Series
While the Lady Vols lead the overall series 49-10, that margin is just 12-9 since the beginning of the Dawn Staley era (2008-09). The Gamecocks have won five of the last six meetings and eight of the last 12.
South Carolina’s last two wins came by double digits, including last season’s 67-53 decision on Feb. 20, 2022 in Columbia. The Lady Vols picked up the win the last time the two met in Thompson-Boling Arena, a 75-67 decision on Feb. 18, 2021. The Gamecocks avenged that loss a few weeks later with a 67-52 victory in the 2021 SEC Tournament in Greenville, S.C.
By the Numbers
5 – Just five South Carolina games have been decided by single digits this season.
+9.3 – The Gamecocks are scoring 9.3 more points per SEC game this season than in 2021-22.
93.8 – South Carolina’s 2019 signing class (Amihere, Beal, Boston, Cooke, Thompson) have won 93.8 percent of their career games (120-8).
South Carolina’s paint dominance shows up on both ends of the court. The Gamecocks are out-scoring opponents in the paint 45.1-22.0 points per game thanks largely to holding foes to just 36.2 percent shooting at that range. South Carolina’s 45.1 paint points per game account for 55.0 percent of its offense.
The Gamecocks lead the nation in offensive rebounding rage (.494) to average 19.9 second-chance points.
Head coach Dawn Staley’s player management has 11 Gamecocks averaging at least 10 minutes per game and just three playing more than 20 minutes per outing.
Reigning National Player of the Year Aliyah Boston averages a double-double in SEC action (12.6 ppg/10.0 rpg) and leads the Gamecocks in scoring and rebounding against ranked opponents (16.8 ppg/11.7 rpg). She leads the SEC in both offensive and defensive player rating and has the nations best combined rankings in those metrics (6th and 3rd, respectively).
Senior guard Zia Cooke’s six games of at least 20 points this season matches her career high (2020-21). The 20 such games in her career include 13 in SEC play (3rd-most in program history) with five of those coming this season.
Junior Kamilla Cardoso is making a great closing case for SEC Sixth Woman of the Year, averaging a double-double (10.8 ppg, 10.6 rpg) with 2.4 blocks per game and shooting 61.1 percent from the field over the last five games.
Senior guard Brea Beal’s offense has been locked in of late, averaging 8.6 points on 55.2 percent shooting over the last five games. The added points came with 2.8 assists per game over the stretch as well.
A Perennial Power
South Carolina women’s basketball is in the midst of its most successful era, claiming at least 20 wins for the last 12 seasons, including five 30-win seasons in the last eight campaigns. The Gamecocks have played in the NCAA Final Four four times in the last seven NCAA Tournaments, including winning the 2017 and 2022 National Championships. They have been ranked in every AP Poll since Dec. 10, 2012, including a top-10 spot every week since the start of the 2019-20 season. The Gamecocks have amassed 60 AP No. 1 rankings all-time, the fourth-most by a program in the history of that poll,. with a current streak of 35 weeks, which is the third-longest streak in the poll’s history. In the 72 polls since the start of the 2019-20 season, South Carolina has been atop the poll 48 times.
Under head coach Dawn Staley’s leadership, eight Gamecocks have earned All-America status, three have earned SEC Player of the Year honors and 17 have picked up All-SEC recognition at least once. Nine Gamecocks have been selected in the WNBA Draft in the last seven years, including 2018 No. 1 overall pick A’ja Wilson, who went on to become the Gamecocks’ second-straight WNBA Rookie of the Year (2018) and the program’s first WNBA MVP (2020, 2022).
South Carolina posted a 3.011 GPA in the Fall 2022 semester, the program’s eighth-straight semester with a 3.00 or higher mark. In addition to Dean’s List entires Brea Beal and Aliyah Boston (the 2022 CoSIDA Academic All-America Team Member of the Year), who exceeded a 3.5 GPA for the semester, eight other Gamecocks made the Athletics Director’s Honor Roll (3.0 or higher) in the Fall.
Two Gamecocks were named to the CSC Academic All-District Women’s Basketball Team this season. Aliyah Boston and Bree Hall are now in the running for Academic All-America honors.
Reigning National Player of the Year Aliyah Boston continues to live up to that title thanks to the flattery of opposing coaches who create defensive schemes expressly designed to slow her down.
Spoiler Alert: It hasn’t really worked. According to Her Hoop Stats, among those playing at least 20 minutes per game, Boston has the best combined offensive and defensive player ratings, coming in sixth and third, respectively, leading the SEC in both categories.
Despite the extra attention – double, triple and the occasional quadruple team – the program’s career double-doubles record holder (77) is sixth in the nation with 17 double-doubles this season. She leads the Gamecocks in rebounding (9.9, 2nd in SEC, 28th in nation) and is second in scoring (13.0) – both numbers that go up dramatically against ranked opponents (16.8 ppg/11.7 rpg). Defensively, she remains locked in, ranking third in the SEC and 30th in the nation with 1.9 blocks per game, including an SEC-best 2.1 per conference game.
From her college debut triple-double in November 2019 to her sweep of the national player of the year awards – including Naismith Defensive Player of the Year – the 6-foot-5 St. Thomas, U.S.V.I., native has been among the best in college women’s basketball throughout her career.
Boston is a three-time All-American, three-time winner of the Lisa Leslie Award, three-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year and the 2022 SEC Player of the Year. In addition to double-doubles, she holds South Carolina career records for offensive rebounds (492), defensive rebounds (903), consecutive games started (128), rebounds in SEC games (713), offensive rebounds in SEC games (240), defensive rebounds in SEC games (473), blocks in SEC games (159) and double-doubles in SEC games (40). She is also seventh among the program’s all-time scorers with 1,811 points and is second in rebounds (1,395) and blocked shots (309).
A model of consistency, Boston has scored in double figures 109 times in her 128 career games (.851). Averaging a double-double for her career (14.1 ppg/10.9 rpg), she leads all active NCAA players, all divisions, in career double-doubles and rebounds. Her 309 career blocked shots are third among all active players. She is the SEC’s leading active scorer and rebounding leader.
In 48 career games against ranked opponents, her averages rise to 15.4 ppg and 12.3 rpg with 34 double-doubles in those 48 games (.708).
All that said, Boston’s impact on the Gamecocks goes beyond her own numbers. A three-time team captain, the senior is a constant communicator on the court and off it as well, keeping teammates organized on both sides of the ball and throughout the week.