Boston ties SEC mark, No. 1 Gamecocks top Lady Vols 67-53
Feb 19, 2022, 10:12 PM | Updated: Feb 20, 2022, 3:14 pm
(Tracy Glantz/The State via AP)
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Aliyah Boston brings the work ethic and drive to succeed. She leaves the praise over her accomplishments to everyone else.
Boston had 16 points and 12 rebounds to match the Southeastern Conference mark of 19 straight double-doubles as No. 1 South Carolina clinched a share of the league title with a 67-53 victory over No. 12 Tennessee.
She tied the mark of LSU great Sylvia Fowles accomplished 15 years ago and the Gamecocks (25-1, 13-1 SEC) won their 13th straight to lock up the No. 1 seed in the league tournament in two weeks.
“Watching someone do it at this level, it’s like, ‘Wow,'” said Saniya Rivers, Boston’s freshman teammate. “To do that consistently every game.”
Boston’s consistency to be the best has driven her to this level. She was an All-American last year, but would’ve traded all her honors to make a short shot in the national semifinal loss to NCAA Tournament champion Stanford last April.
“For me to be right there with (Fowles) is just a great feeling,” Boston said. “I see how she plays and how strong she is and I just want to do that.”
Boston, with her Tennessee orange braids, stole the show with her latest dominant performance. She had eight points and eight rebounds at the half, then hit a driving basket for her 10th point. Three minutes later, Boston collected her own miss for the 10th rebound as the crowd of 18,000-plus cheered.
Tennessee (21-6, 10-4) was still in it, though, down 44-36 after Rae Burrell’s bucket midway through the third quarter.
That’s when Destanni Henderson, honored as a South Carolina senior at her final regular-season home game, rushed up the court for layups on consecutive possessions. Freshman Saniya Rivers stole a pass near midcourt and went in for a layup to put the Gamecocks up 50-38.
The Lady Vols could not respond, losing for the fifth time in eight games since rising to No. 4 in the rankings. Tennessee played its first game without top scorer and rebounder Jordan Horston, who suffered a fractured dislocation of her left elbow in a loss to Alabama this past Thursday.
Horston sat on the bench with her arm in a sling. Burrell led the Lady Vols with 14 points. Tamari Key, at 6-foot-6, had 10 points and 10 blocks.
Lady Vols coach Kellie Harper like her team’s resolve without Horston. They’ll need it the rest of the way. “Nothing is going to be easy for this team the rest of the season,” Harper said.
Zia Cooke had 12 points and Henderson 11 as the Gamecocks improved to 11-0 this season against ranked opponents.
South Carolina put on a national show with a full house and ESPN’s College GameDay on hand.
The Lady Vols didn’t back down early and Brooklynn Miles’ bucket tied things at 13-all in the first quarter. The Gamecocks then off on a 17-6 run. Henderson got things started with a basket.
Cooke hit a 3-pointer and Boston had a pair of inside baskets. Henderson added another from behind the arc and when Kamilla Cardoso scored, the Gamecocks led 30-19 to the delight of the crowd.
Neither team shot the ball well early. The Lady Vols and Gamecocks combined to go 0-of-15 from the floor to close the half.
THE BIG PICTURE
Tennessee: It’s hard to see where Tennessee goes this season with Horston out for what coach Kellie Harper thought could be weeks. The Lady Vols appeared to be on the rise before their recent stretch and still appear to be a recruiting class or two away from competing for championships.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have won or shared the past three SEC crowns and can wrap things up one win in their final two games at Texas A&M or Mississippi next week. No matter what, it’s hard to imagine South Carolina not sweeping the SEC Tournament and heading to the NCAA’s as clear-cut favorites.
ORANGE IS THE NEW BOSTON
Boston said her Tennessee orange braids were not deliberate, just picked by her stylist the other day. Boston said she never interferes with the selection because she doesn’t want to mess up her stylist’s vibe. When Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley saw it, she knew some would see it as a shot at the Lady Vols. “She allowed somebody else to make the decision,” Staley said with a smile. “And I know she’s learned her lesson.”
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Staley talked at the start of the week about how Boston should get as much or more attention as other candidates for national awards. Staley believes Boston’s performance in the national broadcast will go a long way in convincing voters who truly is the game’s best this season. “I don’t think it’s a debate a this point,” said Staley, a two-time national player of the year at Virginia. “She’s done enough.”
Tennessee plays Mississippi State at home Thursday night.
South Carolina heads to Texas A&M on Thursday night.
More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
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