COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina coach Dawn Staley wants to make sure people remember how special Aliyah Boston is. The Gamecocks’ All-American has done a pretty good job reminding them on her own this season.
Boston, the reigning AP Player of the Year, had 11 points and 10 rebounds for her 68th career double-double to keep No. 1 South Carolina undefeated with a 102-39 victory over Coastal Carolina on Wednesday.
Boston, who played just 13 minutes, moved four games away from matching the program’s all-time mark for double-doubles held by Sheila Foster established four decades ago.
“She’s the best player in the country, let’s not forget that,” Staley said. “There are so many narratives starting to circulate. She’s the best player in the country, hands down.”
Boston is averaging close to a double-double — like her previous two seasons — with 12.5 points and 9.5 rebounds a game this year and accomplishing it in fewer minutes per contest than her sophomore and junior seasons.
When Boston is on the court, it’s almost impossible not to notice her skill and effort.
Boston proved that once more in her short outing against the overmatched Chanticleers (5-6). Midway through the second quarter, Coastal’s Amaya Adams stole the ball and seemed to have a clear path to the basket before the 6-foot-5 Boston caught her and blocked the shot out of bounds.
“I don’t know why that girl thought she was going to have a lane,” South Carolina freshman Ashlyn Watkins said with a laugh.
Watkins had a career high 16 points and Zia Cooke 14 as the defending national champs improved to 12-0 for a second straight season and fourth time in Staley’s 15 years as coach.
The effort of Boston and the Gamecocks made it an even more difficult challenge for the Chanticleers, who have just two players 6 feet or taller while South Carolina had 10.
“I’ve never seen a team like like this,” said Coastal Carolina coach Kevin Pederson, who faced Staley twice before when he was coaching at Division II Lander. “This team is not just talented, but they outwork you as well.”
South Carolina led 13-2 less than five minutes in and steadily built the lead to 36 by halftime. The Gamecocks’ trademark defense didn’t fade, no matter who Staley put on the court.
They outrebounded Coastal Carolina 34-12 and had 12 blocks in the first 20 minutes. Boston had three of her team’s season-high 16 blocks.
Arin Freeman scored 15 points to lead Coastal Carolina, which shot just 20.3% (15 of 74) after coming in shooting 43% on the season. Aja Blount, the Chants’ top scorer at 17.5 points a game, was held to six points on 2-of-14 shooting.
South Carolina finished with five players in double figures for a second straight game.
Coastal Carolina: The Chanticleers have taken on Power Five programs under first-year coach Pederson, losing at Georgia, Kentucky and Wake Forest before falling to the Gamecocks. Pederson believes the rugged schedule will get them ready for the Sun Belt Conference.
South Carolina: Fun time is over for the Gamecocks, who’ll play three of their first five SEC games on the road. Staley has said her team is still finding the form it’ll need to repeat as conference regular season and national champions.
South Carolina’s coaching staff pulled out their holiday sweaters on the sidelines a few days before Christmas. Staley wore a red oversized sweater and her assistants and staff wore festive outfits. The winner? Had to be assistant Lisa Boyer, who wore a Christmas tree dress with gold leggings and green and red elf-style shoes.
Coastal Carolina: Opens Sun Belt Conference play at James Madison on Dec. 29.
South Carolina: Starts defense of its SEC regular-season title against Texas A&M on Dec. 29.
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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