Cardoso and Paopao lead No. 1 Gamecocks to perfect regular season with 76-68 win over Lady Vols

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Kamilla Cardoso had 18 points and 14 rebounds, Te-Hina Paopao scored 14 points and No. 1 South Carolina completed its second straight perfect regular season with a 76-68 victory over Tennessee on Sunday.

Cardoso and Paopao, both seniors, excelled on Senior Day as the Gamecocks (29-0, 16-0 Southeastern Conference) won their 47th straight regular-season SEC game, their 57th straight at home and their sixth in a row over the Lady Vols (17-11, 10-6).

A perfect season was not talked about among the team when the season began, Paopao said, only a mindset to win each time players took the floor.

“It wasn't really a goal,” said Paopao, a transfer from Oregon. “It was just, ‘We got to win the next game and the game after that.’”

Rickea Jackson scored a game-high 29 points for Tennessee.

Cardoso played in front of her mother, Janete Soares, and older sister, Jessica Silva, after they arrived from Brazil. Coach Dawn Staley facilitated their arrival, with help from U.S. Rep. James Clyburn in getting visas approved. Cardoso put on quite a show with her family in the crowd.

She had six points and six rebounds in the first quarter. After Tennessee took a 24-23 lead, she led the way as the Gamecocks outscored the Lady Vols 17-8 to close the second quarter and take a 40-32 lead into halftime.

When Tennessee cut a 15-point deficit to 63-60 on Jackson's jumper with 4:51 to play, it was Cardoso who extended the margin with consecutive inside shots. Cardoso, who fouled out late in the fourth quarter, got a loud ovation in the sold-out arena as she went to the bench.

Cardoso finished with her 13th double-double this season and 29th of her career.

Tennessee coach Kellie Harper was proud of her team's resolve in hanging in. The Gamecocks “just don't have a lot of deficiencies,” she said.

THE BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: The Lady Vols will have to find some scoring punch outside of Jackson if they hope to make another deep run at the SEC Tournament like a year ago, when they fell to South Carolina in the final.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks used a different opening lineup, with freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley getting her third start, and a different rotation off the bench. Still, it was more than enough for a second straight perfect record heading to postseason play.

BEARING GIFTS

While Paopao received a framed jersey and a loud cheer from the crowd beforehand, her family brought gifts from their Polynesian culture, giving the team decorative, flower necklaces that Staley wore to her postgame session. It is similar to the “net-lace” Staley wears after her team wins a postseason title.

UP NEXT

Tennessee: At SEC Tournament in Greenville, South Carolina.

South Carolina: At SEC Tournament in Greenville, South Carolina.

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