Lady Huskies beat Gamecocks to Reclaim Top Spot

STORRS, Conn. – The South Carolina Gamecocks walked into Gampel Pavilion undefeated and in the top spot in women’s basketball. No. 2 Connecticut made sure they left with neither of the two honors. The coveted No. 1 ranking is back with its rightful owners after UConn’s dominating 87-62 win.

Odds makers had South Carolina as a 10-point underdog coming in, but most analysts and experts believed it would be a tight battle through the second half. It would come down to flawless execution early, but one team would pull away late. As it grew closer to tip, many ultimately gave the edge to the Huskies in front of their sold-out crowd.

They should have given UConn a little more credit. Coming into the match, Connecticut was undefeated when ranked No. 2 and playing the No. 1 team in Storrs. Though the two teams were dominating opponents in conference play, South Carolina had a chance to show the world they belonged in the spotlight. But UConn was not going to let that happen.

They alternated baskets from the jump, keeping it close for about seven minutes. Then, the Lady Huskies did what they are known to do in big games: put their foot on the gas and run opponents off the court.

After an early 18-15 deficit, UConn scored the next 13 points, turning what everyone thought would be an interesting game into a blowout. Gamecocks guard Bianca Cuevas dropped in two points to end the Husky run, but that basket would be her only points of the game. Connecticut went on another mini-run, netting the next 8 points. Before Dawn Staley’s squad could blink, the Huskies headed to the locker room with a 16 point lead.

“We knew they didn’t want to run with us,” said Connecticut forward, Breanna Stewart. “We kept pushing it and kept pushing it and eventually they got tired.”

Tired was an understatement. South Carolina could only get within 10 before Connecticut blew the doors open. USC never got into an offensive rhythm, which hurt them on the defensive end. UConn sped up the tempo, forcing South Carolina to chase players in transition. Unable to keep up, they committed 18 fouls, which UConn converted into 17 points.

Shining under the bright lights, Stewart and senior Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis accounted for 45 of the Husky’s 87 points. Guard Moriah Jefferson scored 16 points and had a game-high 6 assists.

On the defensive end, Connecticut forced 17 turnovers and many empty possessions. They held South Carolina to 39 percent shooting and only 10 free-throw attempts. UConn coach Geno Auriemma commented after the game, “We played unbelievably well, played great on defense.”

However, this is just another win to UConn. Connecticut is not measured by their regular season wins, but by the banners in the rafters. The team looks exceptional now, but the scary part for the rest of the country is that they will only get better.

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