No. 1 South Carolina stays perfect, extends win streak to 24 games


COLUMBIA, S — Dawn Staley accepts Aliyah Boston’s successful South Carolina career is slowly coming to an end. So the Gamecocks coach plans to savor every moment that Boston has left on the pitch.

The 6-foot-5 senior had 20 points and 10 rebounds to lead No. 1 South Carolina to an 81-50 win over Missouri on Sunday. It was Boston’s 71st double-double, moving away from the program’s all-time record held by Shelia Foster.

“We enjoy whatever she brings to the table,” Staley said of Boston, who will be the expected No. 1 pick in the next WNBA draft. “There will be a huge gap.”

And not just for the Gamecocks, Staley believes, “For everything she does for women’s basketball, we will miss her.”

Boston’s 11th game of double-digit points and rebounds this season held the Gamecocks perfectly 18-0, 6-0 in the Southeastern Conference. Zia Cooke added 16 points and Ashlyn Watkins added 13 for the Gamecocks.

Missouri (14-5, 3-3) lost its third straight game after opening the SEC game with three consecutive wins. Lauren Hansen led the Tigers with 14 points.

The Tigers, who finished South Carolina’s perfect start a season ago, came out of the field firing and ready to go head-to-toe with the Gamecocks in color. Hansen had three 3-pointers in the opening quarter and the game was tied in the last minute of the period.

Women's tires from South Carolina

Missouri guard Luraen Hansen, left, drives to the ring against South Carolina guard Zia Cooke, right, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023, in Columbia, SC (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)AP

At this point, South Carolina upped the pace, leaving Mizzou in the dust with a 30-11 burst. Cooke had a pair of 3s in the surge and backup point guard Raven Johnson led the charge with four assists and two steals in the second quarter.

One of Johnson’s top cents was a ball pass from the right side of the key by multiple defenders to Brea Beal for an easy layup.

Cooke liked how her team locked into defense and the fast break to end the Tigers’ outside play, saying, “Once we could do that, the lead started to open up.”

Missouri played its typical physical game against South Carolina. Tigers center Jayla Kelly fouled Kamilla Cardoso hard and the 6ft 7 player fell flat to the ground. Staley yelled at the officials and unsuccessfully called for a technical foul.

Missouri only had three field goals and a rebound in the second quarter as the Gamecocks led 47-28. South Carolina continued to build in the second half, leading by as much as 33 points.

Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said South Carolina’s talent and skill took control as the game progressed. She said her team has a week to reflect and get back to playing basketball.

“I feel like our dressing room is rock solid. I feel like there’s a great maturity there,” she said. “I feel like this is a team that’s really resilient and understands the bigger picture of where we’re trying to get to.”

Women's tires from South Carolina

South Carolina guard Zia Cooke plays defense in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023, in Columbia, SC (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)AP

BIG PICTURE

Missouri: The tigers couldn’t stand up to the bigger, stronger gamecocks. They were passed 52-22 overall and 23-4 on the offensive glass. South Carolina’s pressure forced 15 turnovers and the Tigers committed 26 fouls.

South Carolina: The defending champion again displayed fire to take down opponents as they headed for more trophies. It’s going to take a team going haywire, underperforming South Carolina, or both for anyone to put the brakes on this team.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

South Carolina ended a satisfying week of victories. Between Sunday’s win and a 95-66 win in Kentucky last Thursday night, the Gamecocks defeated the only two teams they had beaten in back-to-back games last season. “It’s good,” said Cooke, “but we want to win them all.”

NEXT

Missouri: Returns home to play Tennessee on January 22nd.

South Carolina: Goes to Vanderbilt on Thursday night.

Pete Iacobelli of The Associated Press wrote this story.

AP Women’s College Basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25