The word is an oversimplification for what happened tonight in Storrs. Connecticut was on the precipice of yet another unprecedented milestone to add in their case of ridiculous accomplishments, and it probably didn’t matter who UConn played tonight.
Tonight was their night.
UConn’s 66-55 win over South Carolina was hard fought from both sides, but in the end — as it’s been for the past two seasons — UConn was simply better. So long as Geno Auriemma is at the helm, UConn will always be better — than anyone.
It seems like a pessimistic tone to take, but welcome to being the rest of women’s college basketball. You can appreciate what UConn’s doing and still be hopeless at the same time. It’s incredible and depressing at the same time coming from the other side of these accomplishments.
For South Carolina fans, watching Dawn Staley build up the program has truly been a pleasure to watch. It’s given fans and alumni alike something else to take pride in, and it’s given South Carolina athletics national recognition in a place they’ve never really had it before.
Yet even as far as Staley has come to build the program up, it’s night’s like tonight that remind you how far UConn is ahead of everyone else. They’re just one-of-a-kind, and from the beginning it just didn’t seem like the Gamecocks had a chance.
From the endless promotional ads of UConn winning “100” to the precedent of what the Huskies had done to the Gamecocks in the past, it was hard to believe South Carolina would keep the game close — and yet they did for quite some time.
South Carolina never went down by more than four in the first half while being pushed by Aj’a Wilson, who had 12 points on 5-8 shooting in the first 20 minutes of play. Down 10-6 early Wilson grabbed an Allisha Gray miss and laid in the putback while drawing a foul on Gabby Wilson. She’d sink the free throw to cut the deficit to 10-9.
Then down 19-16 in the second quarter, Wilson would hit a transition lay-in off a steal by Gray — finishing the basket off by drawing a foul and sinking the ensuing free throw to make it 19-19. Every time SC needed a bucket, Wilson just seemed to be there.
It was near the end of the second half things started to fall apart for South Carolina. Down 29-28, UConn hit a 7-0 run in the final 1:11 of the first half. South Carolina’s final three possessions ended in turnovers, and UConn converted all three into baskets — five of those points coming from Naphessa Collier.
The Gamecocks benefited from a poor first half from Katie Lou Samuelson, who shot 0-7 and posted a goose egg in the points department. On the flip side Alaina Coates was made non-existent by the Huskies in the first half, being held to just two shots while committing two turnovers.
South Carolina was able to cut the lead to 40-37 in the third quarter off a Coates lay-in, but UConn would reel off an 11-2 run to end the quarter where they’d shoot 6-9 to end out the last four and a half minutes of the third. Meanwhile, South Carolina simply couldn’t buy a basket with UConn packing the zone in to take away Coates and Wilson.
From that point on South Carolina could never bring the deficit back to single digits. Wilson only got off three shots in the second half, not making a single field goal. But the biggest glaring factor for South Carolina was the guard play, something we at GABA noted had to be rock solid in our game preview.
Kaela Davis, Gray and Tiffany Harris combined to shoot 7-28 while committing 11 turnovers between the three of them. All the while UConn’s Gabby Williams shot 10-18 by herself with 26 points, 14 rebounds and four steals.
For the first two and a half quarters, South Carolina showed a solid effort — but you don’t win 100 freaking games in a row by accident. The Gamecocks (21-3, 11-1 SEC) will get a shot to regroup Thursday when they host Vanderbilt (12-13, 2-10 SEC) at 7:00 p.m.