The South Carolina women’s basketball team dominated the second half in its 73-57 win over No. 2 Connecticut in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship.
This win marks the team’s third victory over a top-10 opponent this season.
The Gamecocks came out in the second half and left it all on the court. They played scrappy defense, forcing 10 second-half turnovers.
UConn sophomore guard Paige Beuckers was cooking early in the game: By halftime, she had 13 points and five assists. The South Carolina defense did a good job at shutting her down in the second half, giving up only six points and two assists.
“We just kept pressure on her; we just tried not to give her any open looks, we just tried to fight over screens, we tried to chase her off, we tried to send help when they posted Destanni Henderson up. I think we just made her work hard,” head coach Dawn Staley said.
The Gamecocks struggled offensively in the first quarter. The Huskie defense overwhelmed them, causing eight first-quarter turnovers, giving the UConn 11 fast break points.
In the second half, South Carolina adjusted. The team stayed composed and only turned the ball over three times in the entire half.
Holding a slight lead heading into the fourth, the Gamecocks put the pressure on the Huskies and ran away with the game. South Carolina locked in and held Connecticut to 3 points in the final quarter.
“Our players are determined; they are resilient. We knew exactly what we had to do, especially on the defensive side of the ball — we had to disrupt,” Staley said. “If you allow them to just run their stuff, they make teams look stupid."
The Gamecocks shot 46% for the game. It did not have much success behind the arc but continued to let it fly, shooting 5-18.
Junior forward Aliyah Boston was a force on the inside. She scored 22 points and added 15 rebounds. Senior guard Destanni Henderson added 15 points and six assists.
“I just wanted to make sure I was crashing the boards even if I didn’t put it back up, but it gave us a chance for another possession,” Boston said.
UConn could not keep up with the Gamecocks’ physicality in the paint. South Carolina dominated the glass 42-25. Of those rebounds, 19 were offensive, which translated to 17 second-chance points.
South Carolina remains undefeated after playing three teams ranked in the top-10 through its first six games. Staley said she feels a schedule like this helps the team prepare for their end goal: winning a national title.
“They need to be challenged, we could schedule some cupcakes and possibly get our younger players a little bit more playing time and experience, but you have to feed them," Staley said. "They want to play the very best teams in the country, and they want to measure themselves, and they want to prepare themselves for a long career in basketball."
With the win, the Gamecocks improve to 6-0 on the year. South Carolina and UConn will have a rematch on Jan. 27 at Colonial Life Arena.
The Gamecocks' next game will be on Friday when it hosts Elon at 3 p.m.