Carolina’s second half surge sinks 2nd-ranked Stanford
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A Carolina comeback for the ages delivers a huge early regular-season win in Columbia on Tuesday night. Top-ranked South Carolina erased an 18-point first-half deficit to upend second-ranked Stanford at home, 65-61.
It marked the largest comeback victory in program history. South Carolina improved to 12-0 with the win.
Carolina’s charge began in the third quarter when it closed the frame on a 22-4 run. The Gamecocks held on in a tightly contested fourth quarter when the teams exchanged buckets throughout.
The Gamecock spark came from senior guard Destanni Henderson. She returned to action for the first time this month. Henderson missed the previous three games with an injury. Henderson was sensational, finishing with 17 points, seven steals, and seven assists.
South Carolina started fast on the floor to build early momentum. Aliyah Boston used her size and skill to put the Gamecocks ahead 4-0 in the first. Zia Cooke added a triple at the 7:45 mark to give the Gamecocks a 7-2 advantage.
But the Cardinal’s fluid ball movement and ability to create space for their shooters was a crucial difference in the opening frame. Stanford secured a 12-11 lead by the first media timeout, shooting 62.5% from the field and 2-2 from three-point range.
Carolina, in contrast, shot a mere 25% in the first five minutes. The Gamecocks’ strength on the offensive glass kept the game close.
However, Carolina’s offense endured a tough stretch allowing Stanford to build a lead. The Gamecocks, at one point, were 1-of-14 shooting in a stretch, providing the Cardinal room to go on a 16-4 run.
The Gamecocks were also unable to contain Lexie Hull. She was sensational in the first ten minutes. She went 6-of-10 from the field for 14 points. At the end of one, Stanford led 21-13, closing out the quarter on a 12-2 run.
By the second quarter, the Gamecocks found themselves in big trouble. Stanford’s Haley Jones attacked the rim between the Gamecock bigs for two. It boosted the Cardinal lead to 34-16 with 6:24 to play in the second.
Toward the end of the half, Laeticia Amihere provided a spark to get the home crowd roaring. Using her length and an excellent first step, back-to-back layups cut the deficit to 11, 37-26 with 2:37 to play.
What truly stood out in the first half was how connected Stanford stayed. The Gamecocks were unable to disrupt the flow and rhythm. The Cardinal dictated the action on the offensive end. Stanford had 12 assists on its 17 made field goals.
Stanford was up 42-28 at the break, marking only the second time Carolina trailed at the half this season. The other game was against Connecticut.
The Gamecocks found life in the third quarter on the offensive side. It all started on a Boston triple to make it 45-33 at the 7:09 mark. On the next possession, Destiny Littleton stepped into a three-pointer. Henderson followed it up with a steal and layup on the fast break to complete a 10-0 Gamecock run. The Carolina run took place in just over three minutes, with Stanford committing four turnovers in that stretch.
Victaria Saxton cut the deficit when Brea Beal found her open near the charity stripe. Saxton knocked down two to make it 49-43 with 3:40 to go in the third.
The Carolina comeback was on, and Stanford had no means to stop it. Boston rejected Hull’s shot and quickly pushed the ball up the floor. By the time Stanford was set on defense, Henderson had distracted the trees inside on the drive. She then promptly dished it to Saxton camped in front of the bucket. Saxton rolled home two to make it a four-point game.
Henny time was engaged. Her seventh steal of the game led to an easy fast-break bucket, making it 49-47 with 1:50 to play. Stanford called a timeout as the crowd was on its feet screaming for the home team.
The Cardinal failed to regroup out of the timeout. Beal stepped into a three-point shot to give the Gamecocks its first lead since early in the first quarter, 50-49, capping off a 22-4 run over the last nine minutes to end the third quarter.
Henderson kept her foot on the gas when Stanford seemingly wanted to drive in neutral. Down two, Henderson used her speed to fly the floor to tie it at 54 with 6:22 to play.
Henderson carried Carolina down the stretch with another go-ahead bucket on a drive to the rim, lifting the Gamecocks to a 58-56 advantage with under four minutes to play. It was a brilliant take as she sized Stanford up and opted to attack.
Carolina trailed 60-59, with just over a minute to play. Jones missed a look near the basket, and Saxton fought through the trees to grab the defensive rebound.
The Gamecocks, on the other end, were patient offensively. Henderson found Boston in the paint, and she hit the jumper. Carolina moved back ahead 61-60 with 1:05 to play.
Carolina had possession following a Stanford offensive foul with 49 seconds to play. Dawn Staley called a timeout with 41.1 seconds left to organize the possession. Henderson had a good look on a step back jumper, but it found the front of the iron. Stanford secured the rebound with 24.7 seconds remaining and called a timeout.
Instead of holding for the last shot, they put a shot up quickly. Guarded closely by Henderson, Jones found Cameron Brink for the mid-range shot. Boston closed on Brink. She missed her shot attempt, and Boston secured the defensive rebound and called timeout.
A missed free throw set the stage to clinch the win. Up 62-60, Destiny Littleton missed her second free throw attempt, and Carolina tied up the loose ball. The possession arrow favored the Gamecocks, keeping the ball.
Carolina returned to the line with 6.3 seconds left. Boston was at the line. She made one of two attempts to extend the lead to 63-60. Stanford called a timeout with 4.9 seconds with the last look to tie the game.
Staley instructed her team to deny Stanford a chance to get a three-point shot off. They sent Brink to the line with 3.6 seconds left. She made her first free throw. But the second one was wiped away by the ref because of a lane violation by Stanford.
Carolina played keep away from the Cardinal on the ensuing inbound pass to put the game away.
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