South Carolina‘s women’s basketball team solidified their hold on the No. 1 ranking and got their first victory in a 1 vs. 2 matchup on Monday, defeating UConn 73-57 in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game in the Bahamas.
The noon ET game Monday pushed The Associated Press poll voting back a day, so the Gamecocks will remain in the top spot when the rankings come out Tuesday. Poll voting is normally on Sunday with the rankings released on Monday, but the Gamecocks-Huskies showdown made it worth waiting for.
“I’m super-proud,” Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley said. “They work hard, they believe in each other. We’ve got to get better mentally; that’s the separation from good to great teams.”
Perhaps, but the Gamecocks — especially in the second half — looked pretty great already. They held the Huskies scoreless for the final 5 minutes of the game and outscored UConn 40-21 in the second half, including 16-3 in the fourth quarter.
Junior post player Aliyah Boston led South Carolina with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Gamecocks guards Zia Cooke and Destanni Henderson combined for 32 points, seven assists and eight steals.
“It’s time for Aliyah Boston to be the dominant player she is,” Staley said of the national player of the year candidate.
South Carolina, which began the season in the No. 1 spot, had been 0-4 in previous No. 1 vs. 2 games, with three of those losses to UConn. This also was the Gamecocks’ second victory against the Huskies, who lead the series 9-2.
The Gamecocks were down by as much as 13 points in the first half, but came out on fire after the break and took control of the game in the third quarter when they outscored the Huskies 24-18.
South Carolina won the rebounding battle 41-26. Paige Bueckers led UConn with 19 points, but only six came in the second half.