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No. 9 LSU Falls to No. 1 South Carolina at Home, 76-70

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No. 9 LSU Falls to No. 1 South Carolina at Home, 76-70

BATON ROUGE — No. 9 LSU (18-3, 5-2 SEC) led No. 1 South Carolina (18-0, 6-0) through the first three quarters in front of a sold out PMAC with 13,215 in attendance, but ultimately the Gamecocks prevailed, 76-70, in one of the most anticipated games of the year across the country.

LSU led by as many as 11 in the first quarter, but slowly chipped away. The Gamecocks hit last-second threes in both the first and second quarters, including a 6-0 run to close the second to narrow LSU’s lead to five at the half. Through the second half it was neck-and-neck as the teams went back and forth, but Angel Reese, battling foul trouble, fouled out with just over four minutes remaining. A corner three by Bree Hall with the game tied at 67 ultimately gave the undefeated Gamecocks a lead they would not surrender. It snapped LSU’s 29-game home winning streak.

“That was a good basketball game,” said Coach Kim Mulkey. “There’s a lot of talent on both sides. A possession here, maybe we would have won it. A possession there, maybe we would have won it. They made the plays to win it.”

Aneesah Morrow led all scorers with 16 points and 10 rebounds for her 13th double-double of the season. Morrow added 3 assists, 2 steals, and 2 big blocks. Reese finished the night with 15 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks.

All other starters finished in double figures once again. Hailey Van Lith had 13 points with a pair of threes, Mikaylah Williams scored 12 with 6 assists, and Flau’Jae Johnson finished with 10 points. 

All five South Carolina starters also reached double figures. Chloe Kitts led the way with 14 points on 6-9 from the field. Raven Johnson followed with 13 points and was just one board shy of a double-double. Others to reach the mark were Te-Hina Paopao (12), Cardoso (11), and Bree Hall (10). 

LSU took a four point lead into a final quarter that saw 5 lead changes and 4 ties. After a tie game with 1:42 remaining, South Carolina held off the Tigers late efforts and went on a 6-0 run to close out the night. The Tigers largest lead came in the second quarter as LSU went up by 11 before taking a four point lead into halftime.

South Carolina finished the night 48-percent on 31-65 from the field compared to LSU’s 45-percent on 30-67. The Gamecocks connected on one more three-pointer than the Tigers as they hit 7-20 attempts. LSU was 6-18 from beyond the arc. LSU made just 4 points from the foul line, but only had 9 attempts from the charity stripe. That is 21.05 attempts less than the season average of free throw attempts per game. Both teams gave up 12 turnovers. 

The Tigers will be back in action on Monday night as they travel to Starkville to take on Mississippi Sttate for a 6 p.m. CT tip-off on ESPN2. The Tigers will then have the Thursday off before hosting Florida on Sunday, February 4.

LSU took its first lead of the night as Morrow shook a defender and stepped back for three to make it 5-2 early in the first quarter. Morrow minutes later with another triple to push the Tigers past double digits before the media timeout. LSU went 5-7 from the field in the opening five minutes and took a 12-11 lead into the first break. The Tigers then put together a 9-0 run as the LSU defense forced a South Carolina scoring drought that lasted over three minutes.  The Gamecocks scored five straight to finish the opening quarter and shorten the margin to six. 

The first quarter was a battle between Morrow and Kitts on the offensive ends. Morrow led all scorers with 10 and Kitts led South Carolins with 9. The two kept things close for their squads and finished the quarter a perfect 4-4 from the field. 

Reese capped off a 6-1 run to open the second quarter with a clean finish that came from a perfectly placed assist by Williams. At the first timeout LSU held a nine point lead after going 4 of its last 5 from the field and forcing two consecutive stops on defense. After a slow middle of the quarter, Johnson went on a solo 5-0 run that was capped off with a deep three to force a Gamecock timeout. South Carolina went on a 6-0 run following the timeout to end the quarter. LSU took a 41-36 lead into halftime. 

Reese scored 8 and Johnson had 7 second quarter points to combine for 15 of LSU’s 17 points in the quarter, Aalyah Del Rosario played productive second quarter minutes, with 3 blocks, 5 rebounds, and 2 points. 

LSU ended the first half shooting 45-percent from the field on 18-40 and South Carolina finished 15-31 for 48-percent. Both teams were 4-11 from the three-point line. The Tigers outrebounded the Gamecocks 25-17 in the first 20 minutes and only allowed 3 offensive rebounds. 

Both teams traded buckets through the start of the third quarter as neither team could get a run going. After Kitts put the Gamecocks within one, Reese and Morrow combined for two big scoring possessions to hold on to the Tiger lead. Reese picked up a block and Morrow had a steal on their respective possessions. At the media timeout, LSU held a 5 point lead with 3:53 remaining. The Gamecocks had possession up two and looked to take the lead but Morrow made a big steal that led to a fast break Van Lith lay-up. The Tigers finished the quarter up by four, 56-52. 

Both teams went without a field goal for the first two minutes of the fourth quarter. Following a media timeout both teams traded points on four straight possessions. Paopao went 2-2 from the free throw line and tied things up for the first time since the first quarter. Cardoso went on to give the Gamecocks its first lead as she moved her total past double figures. 

LSU did not back down as Van Lith converted a three-point play to regain the Tiger lead. Ashlyn Watkins took back the Gamecock lead, but it wasn’t long before a Williams three forced a South Carolina timeout. The Gamecocks looked too pull away as they went on a 5-0 run and Reese was called for her 5th foul of the night, Van Lith stopped that run quickly with a game tying triple with 1:42 to play. South Carolina hit a three of their own to go back up by 3. Raven Johnson drove in and finished down low to make it a five point game with 22-seconds to go. The final LSU attempt from Williams fell off the mark and the Gamecock rebound sealed the game away.