After Thursday night’s loss to Tennessee, South Carolina women’s basketball captured a big win over No. 17 Kentucky on Sunday afternoon, 76-55. Impressive play in the paint, along with several key players such as senior guard LeLe Grissett, led to the Gamecocks' victory.
This game featured two candidates for SEC women's basketball player of the year, as USC's sophomore forward Aliyah Boston and Kentucky’s junior guard Rhyne Howard both received votes. However, both Boston and Howard were shut down by opponents in this matchup, calling on teammates to step up.
The success story of the night for South Carolina was senior guard LeLe Grissett. As Grissett is normally a powerful off-the-bench player, she was able to get her first start of the season on Sunday afternoon. Grissett owned her starting position scoring 7 points and adding four rebounds in the first half alone. By the end of the game, she totaled for 13 points and six rebounds. With 13 total points, Grissett outscored her season average by 6.6 points.
Grissett was also responsible for shutting down Howard, as she was tasked with guarding Kentucky’s star player for almost all of the game.
“We just knew the ball was going to be coming back in her hands," Grissett said of Howard. "Once she gets it, time to lock in and focus on what’s important and what's in front of us."
Sophomore guard Zia Cooke had yet another strong performance in the Sunday afternoon matchup for the Gamecocks as she led both teams in scoring with 21 points, 11 of which came from her commanding second half. Cooke played aggressive all across the court, however, she shined in the paint, as she drove to the hoop and was able to draw fouls many times, seeing the line eight times throughout the game.
“Tonight was perfect. The energy, the effort, the willingness to not be denied and take the ball to the basket and make layups, get fouled,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said of Cooke’s performance.
Along with Cooke, junior guard Destanni Henderson, also had a successful night offensively as she added 14 points for South Carolina. Sophomore forward Laeticia Amihere dominated both offensively and defensively as she secured 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Gamecocks.
The paint play was the main difference in this matchup as the Gamecocks dominated the glass, offensively out-rebounding Kentucky 20-8. This allowed the Gamecocks to score 18 second-chance points compared to Kentucky’s 3. All players were contributing to this impressive paint play, as five different South Carolina players had at least one offensive board within the first half.
Due to the lockdown on Howard and early foul trouble, Kentucky could not compete with South Carolina’s aggressive defense and impressive paint play. Howard still led Kentucky in points and rebounds, as her teammates were unable to make up for her lack of play. Junior guard Jazmine Massengill followed Howard in overall play as she contributed 6 points, three rebounds and five assists for the Wildcats, despite the loss.
The Gamecocks will battle for another win Thursday, as they take on an unranked Ole Miss team. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. at Colonial Life Arena.