The No. 1 South Carolina women's basketball team powered to a 65-52 win against Alabama Sunday afternoon with sophomore guard Bree Hall and senior forward Aliyah Boston leading the way.
Hall finished with a career-high 18 points and four rebounds while Boston completed her 74th career double-double, scoring 16 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.
“I feel like when I come into the game, I kind of think more just let the game come to me,” Hall said. “I try to play really hard defense first, and then, I’m like, 'Alright, now let’s try to get it going offensively.'”
The Crimson Tide started the game strong, shooting 43% to the Gamecocks' 33% in the first quarter but still trailed 17-15 after ten minutes. South Carolina relied on second-chance opportunities to score 7 of its first 10 points.
The Gamecocks increased its lead late in the half, pushing the advantage to double digits for the first time with under two minutes left in the second quarter.
For Alabama, junior guard Sarah Ashlee Barker had 10 points and two rebounds in the first half, closely behind graduate guard Brittany Davis, who led the team with 11 points and six rebounds. Davis made a 3-point jump shot to close out the half and cut the Gamecocks’ lead back to single digits going into the locker room at 33-26.
“Alabama went out there and played really hard,” Hall said. “Every team’s going to give us their best, so I think that was just one of those times when they gave us their best, and I think we just had to really grit it out, get things going.”
In addition to Aliyah Boston's 8 points, seven rebounds and three assists by halftime, redshirt freshman guard Raven Johnson contributed 7 points and three rebounds of her own.
South Carolina lagged on both sides of the ball throughout the game, falling short of season averages for scoring, rebounding and defense. Additionally, two Gamecock starters didn’t produce as much as usual. Graduate guard Kierra Fletcher went 0-5 from the field, and senior guard Brea Beal scored her only 3 points with 15 seconds left in the game.
“Once Alabama saw that we had a little trouble defending, they just kept going to it and forcing us to do a better job,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. “Over the course of 40 minutes, it’s what they do well, and I don’t think we did it well — we didn't defend it well for 40 minutes, but we gritted it out and got enough to win the game on the road.”
The difference between the two teams began to show in the third quarter with the additional depth of the Gamecock bench shining through. The Tide’s junior guard Aaliyah Nye made the gap even larger, committing her fourth foul just minutes into the third quarter, stretching the Alabama bench to its maximum. The Gamecock reserves outscored the Crimson Tide's second unit 35-7 by the end of the game.
“You go to your bench obviously, and I thought we got great contributions from our bench,” Staley said. “I’m confident in every single person.”
South Carolina won the matchup in second-chance points 26-8 and out-rebounded Alabama 46-35.
“I think it all starts with practice,” Hall said. “I think keeping your head really level and just going out there and just having a lot of confidence, and taking the things you have done in practice and putting it out there on the court is very important.”
With the win, South Carolina improves to 21-0 overall and 9-0 in SEC play. Next, the Gamecocks will play the Kentucky Wildcats (10-11, 2-7) on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m. on the SEC Network.