It was the second time in two weeks when USC had to face a top five team in the country, and for the second time in two weeks, the Cocks left with a W.
Top-ranked South Carolina (25-0, 12-0 SEC) defeated the third-ranked LSU Tigers (23-1, 11-1) Sunday afternoon in Columbia by the score of 88-64.
That victory was USC’s fifth against a ranked opponent, and it cements them as the only remaining undefeated team in the country.
As I just said, the Gamecocks have been in this situation before, having played multiple games of this magnitude whether at home or away. At least for this season, LSU did not have the same luxury with only one game against a ranked opponent under its belt, and it quickly showed.
South Carolina jumped out to a quick 18-2 lead capped off by a Zia Cooke layup, who had six points during the run.
While it may have looked like hope was lost, and some perhaps even changed the channel, LSU finally got settled in.
The Tigers responded to that early 16-point deficit with a 11-1 run to cut the lead to six with just over two minutes to play in the first quarter.
It may have taken a while, but it finally turned into the game we were expecting to see all week.
Despite the run, stopping the Cocks was something LSU struggled mightily to do during the first quarter, as USC shot 66.7% from the field as a team, taking a 24-15 lead into the first intermission.
Behind eight points from Alexis Morris, LSU was able to keep the game tight in the second quarter as the South Carolina lead got trimmed to as little as three.
Nevertheless, the Gamecocks were able to take a 10-point lead into halftime thanks largely to 11 points from Cooke and 10 from Boston, leading 42-32.
LSU would once again fight back to cut the lead to five following a layup from Angel Reese – who was held largely in check all day and had her streak of 23 straight games with a double-double snapped – but the third quarter was where we started to see the writing on the wall.
South Carolina’s lead would hover around double digits for the last three and a half minutes, and Brea Beal hit a three at the buzzer that felt like an early dagger, transforming a 13-point lead to a 16-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The Cocks were able to extend the lead in the fourth quarter largely thanks to Kamilla Cardoso, who continues to put South Carolina’s immense depth on display with her fantastic play off the bench.
She contributed 12 of her team-leading 18 points in the period to help put this one to bed once and for all.
Zia Cooke and Aliyah Boston continued to do their thing, scoring 17 and 14 respectively. Brea Beal also played well, scoring 11 while shooting 2-of-3 from beyond the arc.
Freshman Raven Johnson continued to impress, too, finishing with 10 on 5-of-7 shooting off the bench.
Would the result have been closer if LSU didn’t appear to have butterflies for a large portion of the first quarter? We will not know for sure unless these two squads meet again, but what I can tell you is only three teams have scored more than the 64 points LSU dropped on South Carolina on Sunday: Stanford, UConn and Kentucky (twice).
The defense will need to improve in future meetings, but this LSU team has proven it can hang with the best.
South Carolina will take the court again this Thursday night at home against the Florida Gators for its penultimate home game of the season.