No. 1 South Carolina Outlasts No. 13 LSU, 66-60
BATON ROUGE – No. 13 LSU (14-2, 2-1) came into Thursday’s women’s basketball matchup against No. 1 South Carolina (14-1, 2-1) riding a 13-game win-streak, but the top-ranked Gamecocks outlasted the Tigers, 66-60, in front of a PMAC crowd of 9,190, the 15th largest crowd in LSU Women’s Basketball history.
South Carolina won the game on the boards, out-rebounding LSU, 48-25. The Gamecocks were especially big on the offensive glass with 19 rebounds on that end, including multiple throughout the final minutes of the game to sure up their victory.
“Before the game I told the girls that they needed to be able to rebound,” said Head Coach Kim Mulkey. “”We tried. That was the difference in the game, and I knew that would be the difference in the game. How did we stay close in this game? The 21 turnovers (LSU forced). That was the only way. That is big girl basketball. They played their hearts out. The crowd was great. Sorry we didn’t win it, but we came a long way and I just have to give the girls credit. They were in there battling.”
Khayla Pointer had a big night for the Tigers with 22 points and six assists. Faustine Aifuwa had 12 points and Morris had 14. No LSU player had more than four rebounds which both Pointer and Aifuwa had.
Aliyah Boston was the key to the game for South Carolina. She took control in the second half and finished the game with 19 points and 18 rebounds, 7 offensive. Zia Cook finished with 17 points and Destanni Henderson added 16 for South Carolina.
LSU controlled the first half and had as big of a lead as 11 points in the second quarter, but came out cold in the third quarter as the Gamecocks built momentum. Down the stretch when LSU would force missed shots, South Carolina kept offensive possessions alive with offensive rebounds. LSU got it within three a few times in the fourth quarter but was either unable to get a stop or make a shot to get it any closer.
South Carolina went to the line 32 times and made 18 free throws compared to LSU’s 3-7 from the charity stripe.
The Tigers started hot, making their first five shots of the game, but South Carolina was making shots too and LSU held a 10-9 lead going into the first media timeout. Morris pulled up out the timeout for her second make of the night, keeping the Tigers perfect, and then after the Tigers forced a turnover, Jailin Cherry scored in transition. LSU held South Carolina scoreless the final 2:49 of the first quarter and led after one, 19-13. The Tigers shot 69.2-percent in the opening quarter.
Morris hit the first shot of the second quarter to give LSU an eight point advantage. LSU maintained a lead just under 10 for the first part of the second quarter and with 5:02 remaining Pointer found Morris going deep off a rebound who laid it in on the fast break to put the Tigers up, 29-18, sending the crowd into a frenzy. After a four-point run by the Gamecocks, Pointer kept the momentum going for LSU, sinking in a three from the left wing, giving her 13. South Carolina did make some leeway late in the half and LSU led, 34-28, after two quarters.
LSU started slow in the third quarter and South Carolina scored the first five points to make it a one-point game before Aifuwa hit one free-throw to end LSU’s scoreless streak. Boston grabbed two offensive rebounds the following possession to tie the game at 35 and then Brea Beal gave the Gamecocks their first lead since the first quarter when she made one of two free-throws. Morris responded with a layup off a nifty move to the hoop, but South Carolina took a 41-38 lead to the media timeout.
LSU’s offensive woes continued but at the 3:12 mark Aifuwa made a basket to get the Tigers back in gear and then Pointer made two difficult layups to put the Tigers back in the lead, 44-43. Aifuwa was forced to the bench with two minutes remaining in the third as she recorded her fourth foul. After LSU shot just 28.6-percent in the third quarter, the Tigers went into the final quarter trailing, 47-44.
South Carolina maintained a slight lead as Boston began to assert herself. After a big third quarter she continued to play big early in the fourth making difficult shots and grabbing rebound after rebound. The Gamecocks held a 56-50 lead after Aifuwa made an eight-foot jumper and Mulkey called timeout with 6:18 remaining. Out of the timeout, Aifuwa fouled out when she was called for a hip check against Boston; Ajae Petty saw her first action and immediately recorded a rebound followed by a Morris make.
With about five minutes remaining, South Carolina struggled to score and LSU made it a one-possession game, 59-56, after a Cherry make with 3:34 remaining. After a pair of Boston free-throws, Hannah Gusters went to work in the post against Boston to bring the Tigers back within three and Mulkey called for a quick timeout. In the end the Tigers were unable to get stops, grab enough rebounds and make buckets down the stretch and South Carolina ended LSU’s 13-game win streak.