COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Dawn Staley accepts that Aliyah Boston’s decorated career at South Carolina is steadily coming to an end. So the Gamecocks coach plans to enjoy every moment Boston has left on the court.
The 6-foot-5 senior had 20 points and 10 rebounds to lead No. 1 South Carolina to an 81-50 victory over Missouri in Sunday. It was Boston’s 71st double-double, moving her one away from the program’s all-time record that’s held by Shelia Foster.
“We’re savoring everything that she brings to the table,” Staley said of Boston, who is the expected No. 1 pick in the next WNBA draft. “There’s going to a huge void.”
And not just for the Gamecocks, Staley believes: “For all the things she does for women’s basketball, we’re going to miss her.”
Boston’s 11th game with double-figure points and rebounds this season kept the Gamecocks perfect at 18-0 and 6-0 in the Southeastern Conference. Zia Cooke added 16 points and Ashlyn Watkins 13 for the Gamecocks.
Missouri (14-5, 3-3) lost its third straight after opening SEC play with three consecutive victories. Lauren Hansen finished with 14 points to lead the Tigers.
The Tigers, which ended South Carolina’s perfect start a season ago, came out firing from the field and ready to go toe-to-toe with the Gamecocks in the paint. Hansen had three 3-pointers in the opening quarter and the game was tied at 17 in the final minute of the period.
That’s when South Carolina pushed the pace and left Mizzou in the dust with a 30-11 burst. Cooke had a pair of 3s in the surge and backup point guard Raven Johnson led charge with four assists and two steals in the second quarter.
One of Johnson’s top dimes was a bullet pass from the right side of the key through several defenders to Brea Beal for an easy layup.
Cooke like how her team locked into to its defense and fastbreak to shut down the Tigers’ outside game, saying, “Once we were able to do that, the lead started to open up.”
Missouri played its typical physical game against South Carolina. Tigers center Jayla Kelly fouled Kamilla Cardoso hard and the 6-foot-7 player fell flat to the floor. Staley yelled at officials, calling for a technical foul to no avail.
Missouri had just three field goals and one rebound in the second quarter as the Gamecocks led 47-28. South Carolina kept piling on in the second half to lead by as many as 33 points.
Missouri coach Robin Pingeton said South Carolina’s talent and depth took control as the game wore on. She said her team has a week to reflect and refocus on playing winning basketball.
“I feel like our locker room is rock-solid. I feel there’s great maturity in there,” she said. “I feel like this is a team that’s really resilient and understands the big picture of where we’re trying to get to.”
Missouri: The Tigers could not hold up down low against the taller, stronger Gamecocks. They were outrebounded 52-22 overall and 23-4 on the offensive glass. South Carolina’s pressure forced 15 turnovers and the Tigers committed 26 fouls.
South Carolina: The defending national champions once again showed a fire to put away opponents as they drive toward more trophies. It will take a team playing out of its mind, South Carolina performing way below par or both for anyone to slow this team down.
South Carolina finished a satisfying week of victories. Between Sunday’s win and a 95-66 drubbing at Kentucky this past Thursday night, the Gamecocks defeated the only two teams to beat them last season in consecutive games. “It’s good,” Cooke said, “But we want to win them all.”
Missouri: Returns home to play Tennessee on Jan. 22.
South Carolina: Goes to Vanderbilt on Thursday night.
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