The Daily Gamecock

Analysis: Gamecocks unable to hold off Kentucky, fall in SEC title game

<p>FILE—The South Carolina women's basketball team lines up on the court at Colonial Life Area in Columbia, SC on Feb. 13, 2022.&nbsp;</p>
FILE—The South Carolina women's basketball team lines up on the court at Colonial Life Area in Columbia, SC on Feb. 13, 2022. 

The South Carolina women’s basketball team fell short of a potential third straight SEC title on Sunday, losing 64-62 to Kentycky. The No. 1 seeded Gamecocks let a double-digit lead slip away for the second time in as many days but this time found itself on the wrong end of a comeback.

“You can’t hide from it, it happened, you deal with it, you face it head on. We’ll watch the film, we’ll look at what went wrong, we’ll look at what things are going right for us, and we’ll continue to work,” head coach Dawn Staley said following the loss, which snapped a 17 game win streak.

South Carolina was in a similar position during its semifinal win over Ole Miss. With a double-digit lead entering the fourth quarter, the Gamecocks were once again outplayed, and more importantly outscored, in the final quarter of play.

The Wildcats scored 21 points in the decisive final quarter while only allowing seven. Senior guard Rhyne Howard and redshirt junior forward Dre’una Edwards led the rally for Kentucky. Howard played all 40 minutes and scored 18 points to go along with two blocks and two steals, Edwards led all scorers with 27 points and added nine rebounds.

South Carolina’s top performer was junior forward Aliyah Boston who finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds. The performance extended her consecutive games with a double-double streak to 24. Junior guard Zia Cooke made an impact early with 11 points in the first quarter. She finished with 15 for the game but missed a pair of free throws with 11 seconds to go which proved costly.

“They just found different ways to score, I mean, I tried to do what I could fourth quarter — I definitely just needed to be probably a little bit more aggressive to be able to help the team,” Boston said.

Following the missed free throws from Cooke, Edwards made her third three-pointer of the game with just seconds remaining to give the No. 7 seed Wildcats the upset victory.

The Gamecocks had uncharacteristic missed opportunities in the title game. The team shot 33% from the field compared to Kentucky’s 42%, despite attempting nine more shots. South Carolina also finished 12 for 20 to shoot 60% from the free-throw line.

Staley and South Carolina now look towards the NCAA Tournament for the opportunity to be crowned national champions.

“Obviously, this was one of our goals of the season, it wasn’t the ultimate goal — the ultimate goal is still very much in front of us, and we’ll buckle down,” Staley said.

The SEC Player and Defensive Player of the Year echoed her coach’s sentiments on the upcoming March Madness tournament.

“We’re going to figure it out, we have postseason coming up, so we’re just locked in on that now,” Boston asserted. 

The Gamecocks will have to wait until March 13 at 8 p.m to find out who they'll be playing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Selection Show will be aired on ESPN.