LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Destanni Henderson scored 22 points and Aliyah Boston added 20, including 10 in the third quarter to put No. 5 South Carolina ahead to stay as the Gamecocks rallied for a 75-70 victory over No. 10 Kentucky on Sunday night.
The Gamecocks trailed 41-32 at halftime and 54-46 late in the third before closing the quarter with an 11-2 run, including five by Boston, for their first lead since the opening minutes.
Rhyne Howard (32 points) hit a jumper to briefly put Kentucky up 58-57. Boston and Henderson then added four points each during an 12-2 spurt to open the fourth that helped withstand Kentucky’s late rally.
Chasity Patterson scored eight consecutive points to get Kentucky within 69-68. LeLe Grissett answered with a baseline drive and Boston made a layup before Zia Cooke sealed it with two free throws with 10.3 seconds remaining.
Boston also had 12 rebounds and seven blocks, while Henderson had eight boards. Laeticia Amihere had 10 points off the bench for South Carolina.
“When Aliyah Boston is able to play Aliyah Boston-style of basketball, you see what she’s capable of doing, a near-triple-double,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said of the sophomore forward.
Staley added, “We just found a way to win, and at a really good time for our team.”
First-place South Carolina (8-1, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) won its fifth in a row just days after postponing a game against Georgia because of a positive coronavirus test in the program.
Patterson and Dre’Una Edwards had 12 points each for the Wildcats (9-3, 2-2 SEC), who lost their second consecutive game in a four-game stretch against top 15 opponents.
“Our margin for error is so small,” Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy said. “For 3 1/2 quarters against South Carolina tonight, against (Texas) A&M, we played high-caliber basketball. However, the small mental lapses cost us and great teams expose you. In order for us to take that next level, we have to be able to play 40 minutes.”
Howard missed all five 3-pointers attempted but offset that with 13-of-25 shooting from the field, 6-of-6 from the foul line, seven rebounds and two steals in 38 minutes. Her scoring total was just a point shy of her season high at Mississippi State on Jan. 3.
South Carolina will reinforce its top five status with a hard-fought victory. Kentucky may drop out of the top 10 with a second consecutive loss.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks controlled many statistical categories, including rebounding (46-31) and paint points (56-34), which helped them stay close. Boston then took charge on both ends, driving for a layup just after blocking a shot near midcourt. Henderson was just as active, allowing Carolina to seize the tempo after playing Kentucky’s pace for much of the night. The Gamecocks won despite committing 18 turnovers leading to 22 Kentucky points.
Kentucky: The Wildcats’ active defense was an important first step against the SEC’s top offense. They also shot decently for much of the game before going cold during a late third-quarter stretch that allowed South Carolina to go ahead. Stopping Boston and Henderson also proved problematic in the fourth.
“They definitely just outplayed us,” Howard said. “We stopped playing defense. We stopped playing Kentucky defense like we did in the first half. They just kept driving it down our throats, and we couldn’t stop it.”
South Carolina visits Vanderbilt on Thursday night.
Kentucky visits Auburn on Thursday night.
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