HARTFORD, Conn. - No. 1 South Carolina women's basketball successfully defended its undefeated record in a thriller at No. 4 Connecticut on Sunday, beating the Huskies 81-77 at the XL Center.
The victory was the first in program history in a road game at Connecticut. The Gamecocks (23-0) have now won a nation-leading 29 consecutive games, including 18 in a row over ranked opponents. South Carolina has also won four of its last five matchups with UConn (22-3) after losing the first eight in the series from 2007-19.
After trailing 25-14 after the first quarter, South Carolina tied the score 34-34 by halftime. Despite lacking bench depth, the Huskies took a long time to show signs of fatigue. They did not allow the Gamecocks to pull ahead by more than six points until the final minutes.
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Huskies temporarily shut down Gamecocks stars
The Huskies' defense controlled the Gamecocks early: South Carolina star Aliyah Boston and leading scorer Zia Cooke were held to zero field goals shooting a combined 0-for-13 in the first half. UConn also created early foul trouble for Brea Beal, arguably the Gamecocks' best defender. She played just six minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls.
However, Boston exploded in the second half, putting up 23 of her 26 points after halftime. She finished with 10 rebounds and two blocks for 15th double-double of the season.
Kamilla Cardoso, Raven Johnson outplay starting lineup
For the first time since the second game of the season, point guard Raven Johnson started a half in place of Kierra Fletcher. After Fletcher picked up two fouls in the first quarter, Staley brought Johnson, the redshirt freshman, off the bench and did not take her off the floor again. Johnson rose to the occasion, scoring a career-high 13 points and leading the team with seven assists.
Kamilla Cardoso dominated the first half and finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds, her fifth double-double of the season. Although senior forward Victaria Saxton started both halves, Cardoso played 21 minutes to Saxton's 10.
High tensions lead to foul trouble
Fouls defined the game for both teams with 43 called in all. Cardoso fouled out on a technical with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter and went to the bench in tears. The Huskies nearly made a comeback as a result, closing their deficit to three points late.
Every player who saw the court for South Carolina picked up at least one foul, and six finished with two or more. UConn had both junior guard Nika Muhl and senior guard Lou Lopez-Senechal foul out with less than a minute to play, and Huskies star Aaliyah Edwards stayed on the court with four for much of the fourth quarter.
Even UConn coach Geno Auriemma succumbed to the intensity of the moment, receiving a technical foul in the fourth quarter for tossing a water bottle onto the court.
This article originally appeared on Greenville News: South Carolina women's basketball beats UConn to remain undefeated