No. 1 South Carolina survives challenge from No. 15 UCLA at home. What we learned

Aliyah Boston returned from a foot injury for No. 1 South Carolina and helped the team earn another win against a Top 25 team.

USC overcame an early 10-point deficit Tuesday and defeated No. 15 UCLA 73-64 at Colonial Life Arena.

UCLA (7-1) stifled USC (7-0) in the paint in the first half, making it difficult for South Carolina to score inside. The team did manage 20 paint points in the first half, but they did not come efficiently.

The Bruins got up by as many as 10 points in the first half, but South Carolina made a late push to make the halftime score 31-27 UCLA.

The Gamecocks came into the second half with more fluidity on offense, and benefited from the hot hand of Kierra Fletcher. Fletcher scored eight points in a row for South Carolina during a stretch in the third quarter. She finished with a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double.

The game was tied at 47 heading into the final frame.

Zia Cooke made a jumpshot at the top of the key with just over five minutes left to give USC a two-point lead, then Kamilla Cardoso extended it to four on a putback layup the next play down. Cardoso finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and five blocks.

Down by four points with 1:13 to go, UCLA freshman Kiki Rice — who finished with 16 points — picked up a technical foul after being called for a personal foul she disagreed with. This awarded South Carolina two extra free-throw attempts on top of the two earned from the personal foul.

“She knew she lost her emotional control in that moment,” UCLA head coach Cori Close said. “Honestly, of all the players I would not have expected that to happen with would be her.”

From there, South Carolina held on for its 17th straight win against a ranked opponent.

The Gamecocks will stay home this week and face Memphis on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m.

UCLA’s Emily Bessoir (11) pressures South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston (4) under the basket during the first half of action in the Colonial Life Arena on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2022.
UCLA’s Emily Bessoir (11) pressures South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston (4) under the basket during the first half of action in the Colonial Life Arena on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2022.

ALIYAH BOSTON BACK FOR USC

Boston started for South Carolina after missing the second half of Sunday’s game with a right ankle injury.

She finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds Tuesday in 35 minutes for USC, the 65th double-double of her career.

Boston was dominant on the defensive side of the ball with four blocks on the night, sending back shots both inside and on the perimeter.

Tuesday marked the 108th career game for Boston.

“I think the trainers did a great job with my ankle, so it’s feeling pretty good,” Boston said.

GAMECOCKS OVERCOME EARLY SHOOTING WOES

South Carolina was just 12-of-38 from the floor in the first half but corrected the shooting struggles in the second half.

USC’s efficiency picked up, with the team scoring 46 points in the second half. The team shot 50% from the floor and made 16 of its 20 free-throw attempts.

“I definitely think the team would love to put together a great game,” Fletcher said. “Four quarters, not just the second half.”

Fletcher’s eight-point stretch helped the team cut into the lead, and Cooke eventually made a fast-break layup to regain the lead for South Carolina.

Both teams traded shots back and forth, but Cooke’s top-of-the-key jumpshot in the fourth quarter put the team ahead for the final time and the Gamecocks extended the lead from there.

LIMITING CHARISMA OSBORNE

Charisma Osborne excelled in the first half for UCLA, but South Carolina made it difficult for her in the second half. The Bruins guard finished with 24 points but shot just 2-of-10 from the floor in the second half.

“We had to make her work,” Staley said. “Make the catches tougher, just be ready for all the things that she did.”

Osborne opened up the court for the Bruins with her outside shooting early on, as she’s done at times this season.

Osborne came into the game averaging just over 20 points per game. She scored as many as 29 in a game this season when the Bruins played Troy.

“She’s not unafraid to take shots, but she made big play after big play,” Staley said.

NEXT FOUR SOUTH CAROLINA WBB GAMES

  • Saturday: home vs. Memphis, 3 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)

  • Dec. 11: home vs. Liberty, 2 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)

  • Dec. 15: neutral vs. South Dakota State, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • Dec. 18: home vs. Charleston Southern, 2 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)