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No. 1 South Carolina downs No. 5 UConn, 81-77

Gamecocks pick up their first victory against a ranked opponent since November

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 05 Womens South Carolina at Uconn Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ever since Dawn Staley took the job as head coach at South Carolina, the team has accomplished many things. They have hung banners, won the conference (numerous times) and have been the hunted as opposed to the hunter more often than not.

One of the only things the Gamecocks had left to do was defeat the Huskies in Hartford.

USC finally got to cross that off its list on Sunday.

Top-ranked South Carolina (23-0, 10-0) defeated the fifth-ranked Connecticut Huskies (21-3, 13-0) in Connecticut by the score of 81-77.

It was also the fourth time in the last five occasions where the Gamecocks emerged victorious over the Huskies.

Although the Cocks were in front at the end of regulation, it was not that way for a good portion of the game.

South Carolina was down 25-14 at the end of the first quarter, which was also its largest deficit, and apart from scoring the first bucket of the game, the Gamecocks were trailing UConn for the whole contest until a layup from Kamilla Cardoso tied the score at 34 with 11 seconds to go in the first half.

The score was tied, but that was not the half the Gamecocks wanted to have.

Aliyah Boston and Zia Cooke – the two biggest stars on the team – shot a combined 0-of-13 from the field and scored a total of four points out of the team’s 34. The rest of the starters (Saxton, Beal and Fletcher) struggled to pick up the slack as well, combining to score only six.

It was the bench’s effort, most notedly from Laeticia Amihere, Raven Johnson and Cardoso that kept this game close.

Amihere put up six, Johnson seven and Cardoso 11 at the half with Amihere and Cardoso combining to pick up seven offensive boards.

While the bench got things going offensively for the Cocks in the first half, Aliyah Boston was the closer.

She scored 23 of her 26 points in the second half, with 14 of them coming in a pivotal fourth quarter.

With USC up four with 5:42 to play in the game, Boston decided to go on a tear.

Thanks to two layups, some free throws, a jumper and a three-pointer, she would go on to score the team’s next 12 points to make the score 75-68 with just under a minute remaining.

After a minute of playing the free throw game, South Carolina officially put this one to bed.

Despite shooting 39% as a squad and a much to be desired first half, the Gamecocks got a much-needed victory thanks to clean basketball, 37 bench points and 25 offensive rebounds, which led to 25 second chance points.

They were also able to stop UConn’s Aaliya Edwards just enough, who scored 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting and – until Boston took over – played like the best player on the court.

Besides Boston, the two other standouts on the day were Raven Johnson and Kamilla Cardoso, who scored 14 and 17 respectively with the latter finishing with nine offensive boards as well.

The Gamecocks take their undefeated record and yet another ranked victory to Auburn this Thursday night for a date with the Tigers, which should have far less drama than what we witnessed on Sunday.