Last February, when then-top-ranked South Carolina met then-No. 2 UConn, Gamecocks star forward Aliyah Boston watched Huskies star guard Paige Bueckers take center-stage, to the tune of 31 points, five assists and six steals in a Huskies victory. It was performance too grand for the Gamecocks to overcome.
Boston made sure that Monday’s matchup between No. 1 South Carolina (6–0) and No. 2 UConn (3–1) would end in a different result. Despite trailing by as many as 12 points in the first half, South Carolina outscored UConn 16–3 in the fourth quarter to win, 73–57, and claim the first-ever women’s Battle 4 Atlantis championship.
Boston, an All-America first-teamer last year, finished the victory with a game-high 22 points and game-high 15 rebounds. Her seven offensive boards eclipsed what UConn was able to gather on offense as a team (six).
“It’s time for Aliyah Boston to be the dominant player that she is,” coach Dawn Staley said on ESPN’s broadcast afterward. “I think she sells herself short a lot of the time, so we have to get in her. She’s to be dominating because she’s a dominating player.”
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South Carolina jumped out to an early 6–0 lead on Monday but allowed UConn to rally. Still, in the first quarter and throughout, the Gamecocks closed quarters with an intense fervor.
They scored the final six points of the first, outscored UConn 10–2 over the final 4:13 of the second and finished the third with a 7–2 run. In the fourth, they allowed just one made field goal—a three-pointer by Evina Westbrook with 5:02 to go in the game—en route to taking home a commanding 13-point victory.
The Gamecocks returned all 11 players from last year’s Final Four team, creating what is, perhaps, women’s college basketball's most loaded roster. While still early, they flashed their talent throughout this week's three-game tournament, cruising past Buffalo and No. 9 Oregon before knocking off the Huskies. There is no doubt that at this point they are the nation's best team.
For UConn, Bueckers finished the loss with 19 points, seven assists and five rebounds. But only two other players, Westbrook and guard Christyn Williams finished with double-digit points. They also received just two bench points.
The two programs will meet again later in the season—this time in a previously scheduled game—when UConn travels to South Carolina. It’s expected to again be an eventful affair, and another possible preview to what would surely be an NCAA tournament thriller.
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