No. 1 South Carolina tops No. 3 LSU, sits at 25-0
12th February 2023

    M.A. Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984, and has been with ESPN since 1996.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The defending national champion South Carolina Gamecocks have been the No. 1 team in women’s basketball since the preseason. They also now stand as the only unbeaten team in Division I college hoops.

The Gamecocks defeated the No. 3 LSU Tigers 88-64 Sunday before a packed Colonial Life Arena, handing the Tigers their first defeat of the season. South Carolina is now 25-0 and 12-0 in the SEC, while LSU drops to 23-1 and 11-1.

In a matchup of two national championship coaches — South Carolina’s Dawn Staley has two titles with the Gamecocks and LSU’s Kim Mulkey three with the Baylor Bears — the home team got off to a hot start, and the visitors from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, were never quite able to catch up.

Philadelphia native Staley sported a No. 12 Randall Cunningham jersey on the sidelines to support her beloved Eagles in the Super Bowl. Mulkey wore a pink suit in honor of it being a “Play 4 Kay” game in support of breast cancer awareness and fundraising. Fans were lined up outside the arena more than two hours before the game, one of the most anticipated this college season.

It began looking like a mismatch, though, as South Carolina raced to an 18-2 lead and was up 24-15 after one quarter, shooting 66.7% in the first 10 minutes. LSU whittled its way back into the game, though, led by guard Alexis Morris, who had 15 of her team-high 23 points in the first half.

However, LSU star forward Angel Reese picked up two first-quarter fouls and was limited to just three first-half points. Reese who had a double-double in each of the Tigers’ first 23 games, had that streak snapped as she finished with 16 points on 5 of 15 shooting and four rebounds.

Whatever debate there may have been about 2023 SEC player of the year was answered by the reigning SEC and national player of the year, South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston. She finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots, and was largely responsible for making Reese’s day as difficult as it was. Boston, expected to be the No. 1 pick in April’s WNBA draft, is the anchor of the best defense in the women’s college game, and LSU struggled against it.

South Carolina took a 64-48 lead into final period after a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer by perimeter defensive specialist Brea Beal. It was sign that just about everything was going the Gamecocks’ way.

South Carolina’s high-quality depth, one of the biggest story lines of this season, came through again. Center Kamilla Cardoso led the Gamecocks with 18 points and 13 rebounds, while guard Zia Cooke had 17 points. Beal finished with 11 points and four assists, and fellow guard Raven Johnson had 10 points.

South Carolina, which lost one game in SEC regular-season play last season, has four games left this season to run the table and head into the league tournament unbeaten. That event, like the one of two NCAA regionals this season, is in Greenville, South Carolina.

The Gamecocks are the projected No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and would have stayed there regardless of Sunday’s outcome. But with two wins over top-five teams in a week — South Carolina beat then-No. 5 UConn 81-77 on Feb. 5 in Hartford, Connecticut — the Gamecocks have even further solidified they are the front-runners for the national championship again.

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