Boston’s finishes strong, No. 4 So. Carolina tops LSU 69-65

Boston’s finishes strong, No. 4 So. Carolina tops LSU 69-65
South Carolina forward Victaria Saxton (5) shoots against LSU guard Jailin Cherry (1) during an NCAA basketball game in Baton Rouge, La., Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton) (Source: Matthew Hinton)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Aliyah Boston scored 11 of her 20 points in the second half and grabbed 14 rebounds to help No. 4 South Carolina secure a 69-65 victory over LSU on Sunday.

Destanni Henderson added 16 points and eight assists while Zia Cooke had 11 points for South Carolina (12-1, 7-0 SEC), which won its 26th straight game against conference competition.

Khayla Pointer scored 18 and Tiara Young 16 for the Lady Tigers (6-7, 4-3) who’d defeated No. 8 Texas A&M earlier this month and looked primed to stage their second upset of a top 10 team in two weeks when they carried a lead into the fourth quarter.

LSU took a 45-43 lead into the fourth quarter after Faustine Aifuwa’s jumper beat the clock at the end of the third period, and Awa Trasi’s layup briefly widened the lead to 47-43 before South Carolina suddenly seized momentum with a 9-0 run.

The surge began with Boston’s bucket and featured five points by Henderson on a 3-pointer and free throws. LeLe Grissett’s fast-break layup capped the run and made it 52-47 with 7:37 left.

LSU pulled back as close as 56-55 after Young’s jumper with 3:41 left, but consecutive fast-break layups by Cooke and Grissett ignited a decisive 10-2 Gamecocks run that included more fast-break points for Cooke and Grissett.

The 6-foot-5 Boston, who came in averaging 14.4 points, didn’t score in the second half until she hit two free throws with 4:22 left in the third quarter to give her 11 points, but produced as the Gamecocks needed her to down the stretch.

The teams combined to start 0 for 10 from the field before Pointer’s layup tied the game at 2 nearly three minutes into in the opening quarter.

The gritty, physical and defensive-oriented first few minutes foreshadowed a tight and competitive first half during which both teams shot below 34% and neither team led by more than five points.

Young hit four of her first five shots and had 10 points in the opening half, giving LSU a 14-13 lead with a jumper early in the second quarter.

Boston scored nine in the first half, and her layup put the Gamecocks up 21-19 late in the second quarter.

But LSU tied it on Trasi’s layup and regained the lead at 25-23 when Seay stole the ball from Cooke near mid-court and converted a fast-break layup with a second left before halftime.

THE BIG PICTURE

South Carolina: While the Gamecocks found themselves in a close contest and behind early in the final period against an LSU team that clearly didn’t fear them, they never seemed to falter long enough the let the game get away from them. Ultimately, their superior talent took over as they controlled the late stages of the game to secure 11th straight victory in the series.

LSU: The physical presence of the 6-foot-5 Aifuwa and 6-1 Trasi in the front court kept Boston from taking over the game early. Additional scrappy defense from LSU’s backcourt showed how the Lady Tigers can remain competitive in any given game with some of the nation’s top-ranked teams - even as they’ve hovered around .500 overall this season.

GAMECHANGER

LSU pushed its lead to four, 47-43, with 9:07 to play, but the Gamecocks responded with a 9-0 run that was fueled by solid defense and started with an Aliyah Boston bucket, followed by a 3 and a pair of free throws from Destanni Henderson and capped off by the first of LeLe Grissett’s eight points in the quarter to regain the lead.

KEY STAT

After struggling to find an offensive flow in the first half the Gamecocks shot 62 percent from the field in the second half, going 18-for-29 to take control of the game.

NOTABLES

  • The Gamecocks extended their SEC regular season winning streak to 23 with the win. The program record is 24 – Jan. 3, 2016, through Jan. 26, 2017
  • Carolina kept the Tigers from connecting offensively throughout the game, holding LSU to just four assists, its lowest total of the season. The Tigers did not register an assist in the first half.
  • Sophomore Aliyah Boston kept her momentum from Thursday rolling into today’s game, scoring seven points in the first quarter on her way to a 20-point 14-rebound double-double – her third straight game with a double-double. Boston has pulled down double-figure rebounds in every SEC game this season and scored 20+ points in four SEC contests.
  • Junior Destanni Henderson provided the offensive spark Carolina needed in the second half, scoring seven points in the third, and seven more in the fourth, including the 3-pointer that put the Garnet and Black back in front for good, finishing with 16 points and eight assists.
  • Senior LeLe Grissett stepped up in the fourth scoring all eight of her points during Carolina’s run to close out the win. In addition to her defensive pressure, she also notched three rebounds and dished out three assists in the game.
  • Sophomore Zia Cooke cracked double figures for the second straight game, scoring 11 points, including four in the closing moments of the contest to put the game on ice.
  • Sophomore Brea Beal put up solid numbers, scoring 10 points to go with her four rebounds and four assists.

UP NEXT

The No. 4/3 Gamecocks (12-1, 7-0 SEC) head to Starkville for their next game against No. 19/19 Mississippi State (8-4, 3-3 SEC). Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. ET on Thursday on ESPN.

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