“We’re super-happy we have Aliyah. Nobody else in the country has her,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “She was everything for us. She scored, she rebounded, she played through fatigue. She got beat up down there, but she stood strong and willed us to a win.”
Zia Cooke scored 17 points and Destanni Henderson had 16 for the Gamecocks (14-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference), who have won two straight since losing in overtime at Missouri in their SEC opener.
South Carolina trailed by six points at halftime but built a seven-point lead with 5:21 left. LSU (14-1, 2-1) twice got within three points but could not get closer.
Khayla Pointer scored 22 points for the Tigers and Alexis Morris added 14.
Jailin Cherry’s jumper with 13.2 seconds left got LSU within 64-60, but one last offensive rebound by Boston off a missed free throw helped South Carolina close out a game in which it dominated the boards 48-24.
“I said before the game you better put on your big girl panties and rebound,” LSU coach Kim Mulkey said. “We tried. That was the difference in the game.”
What kept LSU close was forcing 21 South Carolina turnovers, which it converted into 19 points.
While the field-goal shooting was almost even — South Carolina finished at 44% while LSU shot 42.4% — there was a huge free-throw disparity as the Gamecocks went 18 for 32 while the Tigers went 3 for 7 from the line.
LSU came out of the gate sizzling, hitting its first nine of 11 shots, and the Tigers led 29-18 midway through the second quarter. But the Gamecocks found some rhythm and got within 34-28 at halftime.
South Carolina pushed ahead 36-35 in the third quarter as LSU’s offense went cold, and the Gamecocks led 47-44 heading into the fourth.
“It wasn’t a matter that we weren’t getting good shots,” Pointer said. “We just started to miss the same shots we made earlier.”
By the end of the third quarter, LSU’s starting front line was in foul trouble. Faustine Aifuwa had four fouls, Autumn Newby had three, and reserve forward Awa Trasi also had three.
None of them could handle Boston.
LSU: It’s been so long since LSU was relevant in women’s basketball that Thursday was the first time in 13 years that it hosted a matchup of teams ranked in the top 15. Among those in attendance were Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, an LSU alum.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks were short-handed, with reserves Laeticia Amihere and Olivia Thompson in COVID-19 protocols. Amihere averages 7.2 points and is third on the team in steals (14) and blocks (17).
Former Tigers star Seimone Augustus, the most decorated player in school history with four Final Four appearances, four WNBA titles and three Olympic gold medals (the last in 2020 under South Carolina coach Dawn Staley), was honored before the game. Augustus played 15 seasons in the WNBA and retired earlier this year. The 37-year-old was selected to both the league’s 20th and 25th anniversary teams.
South Carolina: Hosts No. 21 Kentucky on Sunday.
LSU: At Auburn on Sunday.