COLUMBIA, S.C. — Ty Harris scored 19 points, Aliayah Boston dominated underneath and No. 1 South Carolina held UConn to a record-low two points in the opening quarter on the way to a 70-52 win Monday night — its first-ever win over the fifth-ranked Huskies.
The Gamecocks (23-1) came in 0-8 all-time against UConn, seven of those defeats with national championship coach Dawn Staley in charge.
But South Carolina took control immediately with its suffocating defense, limiting the Huskies to 1-of-16 shooting to lead 11-2 at the end of the first period.
Since women’s basketball changed to quarters in 2015-16, UConn’s fewest points in a first quarter was 8 against Tulane in February 2016. The Huskies fewest in any quarter was 6 in a loss to Baylor earlier this year.
Boston, the 6-foot-5 freshman, finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds, her 10th double-double this season. She also had three of South Carolina’s eight steals and made her first 3-pointer this season.
She had nine rebounds and two blocks the first 10 minutes as she continually altered shots whenever the Huskies tried to come inside.
That early blitz was enough to energize the sold-out crowd of 18,000-plus and push the Gamecocks to their 17th straight victory — and their ninth win in 10 games this season against ranked opponents.
South Carolina eventually grew the lead to 52-31 early in the second half. UConn cut things to 11 points on Crystal Dangerfield’s jumper to start the fourth quarter. But Boston hit a basket and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan made a three to build back South Carolina’s lead.
Harris had a double-double, too, with a game-high 11 assists. Zia Cooke, another freshman, had 15 points for the Gamecocks.
The Huskies (20-3) have been a thorn in Staley’s side as she’s built the Gamecocks into a championship program the past 12 years.
It was UConn who ended South Carolina’s last run at No. 1 with an 87-62 victory in 2015. And despite Staley’s success — she’s led the team to four Southeastern Conference crowns and the 2017 national championship — she acknowledged it “absolutely” bothered her not to beat the signature program in women’s hoops.
Dangerfield led the Huskies with a season-high 25 points.
It was the second straight week the Huskies lost a highly regarded showcase game, falling 74-56 at home to No. 3 Oregon last Monday.
THE BIG PICTURE
UConn: The Huskies time among the top five in the rankings, which dates back to 2007, could be in jeopardy after this defeat. UConn slipped a spot in the rankings this week and should slide some more when the next vote is taken.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks may have put the cherry on top of the NCAA Tournament top-overall seed sundae with this one. In case you’re projecting, South Carolina will more than likely stay in its home state through the Elite Eight with a regional two hours up the road in Greenville.
UConn plays at South Florida on Friday night.
South Carolina faces Auburn at home Thursday night.
Courtesy – Associated Press