No. 7 South Carolina women's basketball (20-4, 15-2 SEC) defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide (16-9, 8-9 SEC) 75-63 in the SEC Quarterfinals on Friday night.
With the victory, the Gamecocks have beaten Alabama for the third time this season.
Gamecock head coach Dawn Staley's main message heading into the SEC Tournament was her team was "going to look like a different offensive basketball team come Friday night." When it comes to making promises, it is safe to say she is a woman of her word.
"We did the best we could under these circumstances," Staley said postgame. "I'm glad we found our offense to get out to a lead, which we just held on to win the basketball game. At this point I'd rather be on this side of not playing our best basketball than not. We lived to see another day."
Right out of the gate, the Gamecocks were all-business, opening the game with a 12-0 run. A 20-point first-quarter lead proved to be the difference in this game as the Crimson Tide were never in control. At one point in the first half, Alabama trailed by as much as 27 points. Behind a fast-paced offense and 10 turnovers from the opposition, South Carolina led 42-26 going into the break.
The second half of the contest proved to be more of a heavyweight fight as both teams kept going at each other shot-for-shot. In the fourth quarter, the Crimson Tide would shrink the lead down to seven. However, this would be the closest the team would get as the Gamecocks did enough late-game scoring to pull away with the victory.
Had it not been for a slow start from Alabama, this game may have had a different ending.
Sophomore guard Zia Cooke led the way for South Carolina in scoring, finishing with 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting. She also added three rebounds, two assists and two steals.
As Cooke put it after the game, she enjoys having her team being the "underdog" during this tournament run.
"I actually enjoy being the underdog because you get a chance to show the world who you really are," Cooke said. "While they're asleep, you get a chance to wake them up. That's definitely our plans right now, wake the world up and let them know who we are."
Sophomore forward Aliyah Boston and junior guard Destanni Henderson both put together double-digit scoring performances in the win. Boston finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds and one block, while Henderson had 18 points and went perfect from 3-point range.
Alabama senior guard Jordan Lewis had another strong game against the Gamecocks as she scored a game-high 25 points. Senior forward Ariyah Copeland became too much to handle in the paint, going 7-of-8 from the field, which was good for 17 points.
"It's a dogfight winning out there in our league," Staley said.
South Carolina will play Tennessee in the SEC Semifinals on Saturday night at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPNU.