Columbia, S.C. — In front of a sold-out rowdy crowd of 18,000, dominance was displayed by the No.1 team in the country.
“It’s South Carolina, in my opinion,” she said flatly, “and it’s everybody else.” Said LSU head coach Kim Mulkey.
From the opening tip-off Aliyah Boston was a dominant presence. Grabbing the initial possession and dishing off a sweet assist to point guard Zia Cooke for the first points of the game.
The Gamecocks jumped on the Tigers from the start with a 18-2 start of the first six minutes and threatened to run the Tigers out of Colonial Life Arena.
Kamilla Cardoso scored 18 points and 13 rebounds, Zia Cooke poured in 17 points as the top-ranked Gamecocks (25-0, 12-0 Southeastern Conference) stayed perfect with an 88-64 victory over No. 3 LSU for their 31st straight win.
South Carolina broke out to an 18-2 lead. LSU cut things to five points a handful of times, including early in the third period, but could not come any closer.
“The energy in the building it really helps,” said South Carolina coach Dawn Staley. Our fans are students of the game. They understand how we created our success, and it’s on the backbone of playing defense.”
The game was showcase between reigning AP player of the year Boston and Angel Reese, quickly become a highlight reel of South Carolina’s experience, talent, and depth. The Gamecocks proved to be a little more seasoned than the young up and coming Tigers.
Boston and Reese entered the game with a combined 39 double doubles this season. Instead, it was the 6-foot-7 backup Cardoso who collected double figure points and rebounds.
The Gamecocks went into the locker room with a 42-32 advantage over the Tigers and looked unfazed by the little run by LSU before the break.
Reese, the 6-foot-3 walking double-double, couldn’t get going against the Gamecocks’ intense inside defensive pressure, going 5-of-15 shooting for 16 points and four rebounds for her first game this season without double figure on the boards.
Boston, South Carolina’s career record holder with 76 games in double figure points and rebounds, also came up a little short. Not that it mattered, as she twice blocked Reese’s shots in the third quarter as South Carolina took control of the contest for good.
Boston finished with 14 points and nine boards.
“When you have that type of commitment, you’re going to win games like this,” Staley said.
Senior Brea Beal also contributed big with a couple of momentum daggers 3-pointers in the game. The “three and D” machine always making her presence felt. LSU cut a 10-point halftime deficit to 45-40 on Reese’s inside bucket midway through the third quarter. But South Carolina closed the period on a 19-8 spurt finished by Brea Beal’s second trey.
Her teammates rushed her after time ran out, celebrating like they had won a title. The Gamecocks sure proved who runs things this year in the women’s game.
“I’ve always said [Kamilla] is a difference-maker. She’s a separator,” Staley said. “If we don’t get her production, it’s probably a lot closer game than what it was. She’s a hard guard, and when we have her and Aliyah in at the same time, you have to guard them player-for-player and not necessarily double.”
The sold-out crowd was loud and raucous from the jump, they went crazy when Staley, a Philadelphia native, came out in a classic Eagles’ Mitchell & Ness Randall Cunningham jersey for her team’s Super Bowl Sunday warm up with LSU.
Alexis Morris led LSU with 23 points. Boston and Cardoso each had three blocks for the Gamecocks.
“Be thankful that LSU was on this stage,” Mulkey said. “Who in the world would have thought that we would be on this stage in Year 2 of rebuilding the program?”
South Carolina is home on Thursday, Feb 16 and will play Florida for a 7:00 P.M. start time.