No. 1 South Carolina women’s basketball overcame a halftime deficit to hold off No. 15 UCLA at home on Tuesday with a 73-64 win.
The Gamecocks outscored UCLA 46-33 in the second half, powered by strong defending and attacking the paint on offense. The visiting Bruins led for nearly 25 minutes in the game but South Carolina found a way to surge ahead late.
“They’re really good and we got to figure out a way to win. We were scratching and clawing, just trying to figure out a way how we get the lead and how we keep the lead,” head coach Dawn Staley said following the win.
Despite injury concerns following her early exit from the win over Hampton, senior forward Aliyah Boston started against UCLA and logged 35 minutes on the night. Boston finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.
South Carolina began the game slow on offense but found more consistency in the paint after halftime and finished with a higher shooting percentage than UCLA, 40% to 32%. The Gamecocks outscored UCLA 42-28 in the paint to overcome 3-15 shooting from three-point range.
“Coach told us going into halftime, she was like ‘we just need to simplify.’ And we just started reading what they were giving us and taking what they were giving us,” Boston said post-game.
Senior guard Zia Cooke was another mainstay on the court for the Gamecocks, scoring 12 points in 35 minutes. However, Staley pointed to the pairing of Boston and junior center Kamilla Cardoso, who recorded 16 points in addition to nine rebounds and five blocks, as the difference in the game.
“If we can get those two to play together and play like they did tonight, it gives us another layer of people having to scout us in a different way,” Staley said. “So, very happy. This is the kind of performance that we want to see from Kamilla on a consistent basis and I think we will.”
Cardoso led the charge from the Gamecocks bench which posted 27 points while the Bruins had just 6 points from non-starters.
The interior dominance from the Gamecocks paid dividends, putting multiple Bruins in foul trouble, and eventually leading to three UCLA players fouling out of the game. The length of Boston and Cardoso inside also helped South Carolina to a 15-6 advantage in blocked shots.
Senior guard Kierra Fletcher helped set the tone early in the second half from the point guard position. Fletcher scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, coordinating South Carolina’s offense and loosening UCLA’s defense with her shooting.
“My coaches and teammates, they told me to just take that open shot. That’s a shot that I can hit, so just having the confidence and knocking that down and helping the team any way I can,” Fletcher said about her third quarter mindset.
The win over the Bruins marks South Carolina’s 17th consecutive win against ranked opponents.
South Carolina (7-0) stays at home to host Memphis on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 3 p.m. The game will stream on SEC Network+.