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Game preview: South Carolina women tangle with top-ranked UConn

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One of the biggest games of the women’s basketball season is here.

Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

No. 7 South Carolina (18-3) vs. No. 1 UConn (20-0)

Start time: 7 p.m.

TV: ESPN

Live stream: watchespn.com

Live audio: 1320 AM/107.5 FM (Columbia)

Last game

The Gamecocks held off No. 11 Missouri, 64-54, in a chippy, contentious battle that saw an on-court fracas and the ejection of two Tigers players in what has quickly become a heated SEC rivalry. The game also sparked an off-court controversy when Mizzou AD Jim Sterk called out South Carolina fans for spitting on his players and hurling racial epithets at them, escalating the situation even further when he indicated coach Dawn Staley was to blame. While Staley and South Carolina AD Ray Tanner have denied the allegations, Sterk has yet to clarify or update his comments.

What to watch for

South Carolina has never beaten a No. 1 team, although it came close against Stanford in 2012 (53-49). The Huskies have won all five games in this series.

Undefeated UConn leads the NCAA in points per game and field goal percentage, and is paced by six players who average double figures: Katie Lou Samuleson (17), Kai Nurse (15.1), Napheesa Collier (14.9), Azura Stevens (14.8), Crystal Dangerfield (11.2), and Gabby Williams (10.4). The Huskies are coming off a 98-45 pasting of Tulane, in which they shot 72.2% from the floor — second-best in program history.

This will be a tough task for South Carolina, but the Gamecocks have managed to slowly start closing the gap between the two teams since this series started. Last year’s game, a 66-55 loss in Storrs, Conn., was UConn’s most narrow margin of victory yet.