Boston powers No. 1 South Carolina to 79-38 blowout of Elon
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Dawn Staley was worried how her top-ranked South Carolina team would handle its next game after its rousing success in The Bahamas.
For a half, Staley had good reason — until the Gamecocks caught fire to put away Elon 79-38 on Friday.
Aliyah Boston scored 12 points and blocked three shots, and South Carolina used a 16-0 run in the third quarter to improve to 7-0 for the first time in five seasons.
The Gamecocks were coming off a championship run in the Battle 4 Atlantis, defeating then-ninth-ranked Oregon in the semifinals and No. 2 UConn for the title.
Staley was concerned about whether her team could put aside the big wins and get back to competing.
“I thought for the most part we were a little sluggish,” she said. “But they fought through and we just have to continue.”
South Carolina had a 16-point lead trimmed to 33-27 early in the third quarter. But the Gamecocks responded with a 16-0 run to put away the Phoenix (4-1).
Zia Cooke finished with 11 points and Destanni Henderson had 10.
South Carolina didn’t do much upon returning from its trip, practicing on Thanksgiving Day to get ready for Elon.
“We can’t get too high with the highs or low with the lows,” said Brea Beal, who scored nine points with a team-high eight rebounds. “Yeah, we got a big win (against UConn), but we’re in November and we’ve got more to go.”
The Gamecocks kept up their strong play early against Elon. Boston went for six points and two blocks the first 10 minutes. When Henderson hit a 3-pointer just seven minutes in, South Carolina led 20-4 and looked ready to roll the rest of the way.
But Elon didn’t cave, going on a 19-8 surge over the next eight minutes. The Gamecocks recovered down the stretch as Cooke hit a 3-pointer and Henderson converted a driving basket, helping South Carolina to a 33-23 halftime lead.
Ariana Nance led Elon with 13 points, matching her career high.
South Carolina finished with a season-high 13 blocks from eight different players.
Elon coach Charlotte Smith was proud of her team for absorbing South Carolina’s early run and staying close.
“You watch the film and pull those good things that you did,” Smith said. “You did it against the No. 1 team in the country, surely you can do it against anyone else.”
Elon: The Phoenix, like most teams against South Carolina, were bothered by the Gamecocks’ height and length on defense. Elon was at its best with strong ball movement that led to open looks. That will serve it well in the Colonial Athletic Association.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks are deep and talented and Staley’s goal is finding good combinations for everything they’ll see on their schedule, which includes games with No. 2 Maryland and No. 7 Stanford the next month.
THEY GO WAY BACK
Staley and Smith were teammates on the Charlotte Sting in the WNBA. They were also ACC standouts who competed against each other in 1992, Staley for Virginia and Smith for North Carolina. “So extremely proud of what she’s done with this organization,” Smith said of Staley.
South Carolina played for a bit with the 6-foot-5 Boston, the 6-7 Syracuse transfer Kamilla Cardoso and 6-4 Laeticia Amihere in the lineup, a daunting prospect for opponents. Besides the obvious edge in height, the trio are talented defensively and combined for seven blocked shots. Staley also used had the three tall players on the floor at the same time in The Bahamas, and so far she likes it.
Elon plays N.C. Central at home Monday night.
South Carolina will take on North Carolina A&T at home Monday night.