ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) — Before Baylor’s game against South Carolina, coach Kim Mulkey said November was the month of upsets.
Then her team became the victim of another one.
Freshman Aliyah Boston had a career-high 20 points and 13 rebounds, and No. 5 South Carolina pulled away in the fourth quarter to knock off the second-ranked Bears 74-59 on Saturday at the Paradise Jam tournament.
Boston, who was born on St. Thomas, helped South Carolina (8-1) win the tournament’s Reef Division title and was chosen MVP.
“I just think we needed a boost, and this is it,” Boston said, referring to the Gamecocks’ loss to No. 17 Indiana just 48 hours earlier. “We worked really hard, we practiced for it and we got what we wanted.”
Tyasha Harris also had 20 points and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan added 13 for South Carolina, which weathered several attempts by Baylor to take the lead in the second half.
“We’re building a tough skin,” Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley said. “I thought our kids were resilient. We could’ve packed it in after losing to Indiana, thinking we couldn’t win the championship. But we went back to the drawing board. We practiced a little better, we prepped a little better, and put ourselves in position to win the championship.”
NaLyssa Smith had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Te’a Cooper and Juicy Landrum added 10 points apiece for the Bears (7-1), who had their 36-game winning streak snapped after top-ranked Oregon lost earlier Saturday.
“It’s hard to compete without your leader,” said Mulkey, referring to All-American forward Lauren Cox, sidelined with a stress fracture in her right foot since the first week of the season.
“The fight was there; I’ve never questioned our fight. We just didn’t do things. … We’re just doing all we can until (Cox) comes back. It was a nip and tuck basketball game. We made some mental mistakes. You’ve got a bunch out there that are new, and you’ve got to keep coaching them. As long as the effort is there, you can live with it. But we will be better when Cox comes back.”
The Bears trailed only 59-57 on Cooper’s 3-pointer with 5:57 left, but Herbert Harrigan and Boston each scored six points in South Carolina’s 15-2 run to end the game.
“When you’re playing in any game, you’ve got to be able to make more big plays than the other team,” Staley said. “What we were able to do was convert. We were real deliberate who we wanted to have the ball and where we wanted the shots to come from.
“What was helpful for us was that we got in the bonus really early in the fourth quarter, so we knew everything was going to be downhill. We weren’t going to take as many jump shots, and we were going to attack the rim. We were really consistent in doing that, and it didn’t give them any space to recover.”
Ahead 22-19 at the end of the first quarter, the Gamecocks went on a 14-6 run in the opening minutes of the second to build that 11-point lead three times, the last at 36-25 on Harris’ layup with 3:39 left. Harris scored 13 points over the first two quarters.
However, Baylor closed out the quarter with its own run, outscoring South Carolina 10-2 over the final 3:25. Moon Ursin’s free throw with 24 seconds remaining left the Gamecocks with a 38-35 lead at the halftime break.
Baylor: The Bears also had their winning streak against Top 25 teams end at 10 games. The last time they lost, it was to then-No. 11 Stanford on Dec. 15, 2018.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks could make a move up the polls after two teams ahead of them lost.
With both the No. 1 and No. 2 teams losing on the same day in the same tournament – it sets up a shakeup of the Top 10 when the new poll comes out next week. It's just the third time over the last 20 seasons that the top two teams in the AP poll lost on the same day, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Baylor hosts Georgia on Wednesday.
South Carolina travels to Temple on Saturday.