STORRS, Conn. -- No. 6/6 South Carolina fell to No. 1/1 UConn 66-55 in Monday's top-10 battle at Gampel Pavilion despite 17 points from junior forward A'ja Wilson and another double-double by senior center Alaina Coates. The Gamecocks dropped to 21-3 overall with the loss, while the Huskies moved to 25-0 following the victory.
Wilson paced the Gamecock offense early and kept Carolina level with UConn for much of the first half. Twelve of her 17 points came in the opening two quarters, and the Hopkins, S.C., native added three blocks on the defensive end. Coates boasted totals of 10 points and a game-high 15 rebounds to notch her 15th double-double this season, while Carolina junior guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore netted eight of her 11 points in the final quarter.
Carolina's frontcourt delivered the offense for the Gamecocks in the early going, tallying 11 of the team's first 13 points. A jumper inside from Wilson evened the score at two before freshman guard Tyasha Harris's heads up pass to a streaking Coates led to a layup from the center that made it 6-6 with 6:29 to play in the first period. Wilson continued to answer the call down low, and a three-point play from the junior cut the UConn advantage to 10-9 midway through the quarter. Another tough basket inside by the forward again brought the Gamecocks to within one of the lead at 12-11 in a back-and-forth final few minutes of the quarter. After a UConn 3-pointer stretched the Husky lead to 17-13, Carolina answered right back when junior guard Allisha Gray connected on a shot from beyond the arc on the left wing to cut the advantage to 17-16 with under a minute left in the period. Another jumper from the Huskies gave them a 19-16 lead as the two teams headed to the first break. Wilson tallied seven points in the opening quarter, while Coates added four boards on the defensive end.
Defense led to the first points of the second quarter for Carolina when Gray came up with a steal and found Wilson on the break for a layup. Wilson was fouled on the play, and her free throw put her in double figures and knotted the game at 19 less than one minute into the period. The junior's hot shooting start produced another difficult jumper in the paint that brought Carolina to within one of the lead at 22-21 a minute later. A pair of 3-pointers gave the lead to the Gamecocks over the next few minutes, as Cuevas-Moore's field goal from beyond arc put them in front 24-22 before a basket from the left side by junior guard Kaela Davis gave Carolina its largest lead of the night at 27-24 with 5:42 to play in the first half. The contest remained a one-score game over the next few minutes, with the teams trading baskets. A nifty runner in the lane by Gray gave the lead back to Carolina and made it 29-28 late in the quarter, but UConn responded and closed the half on a 7-0 run that sent them into the locker room with a 35-29 advantage. The Gamecocks shot 47.8 percent from the floor over the first two periods, and 16 of their 29 points came in the paint.
Coates was active on the glass to start the second half with four rebounds in the first three minutes of the third quarter. Her first board of the half led to a put-back that cut the UConn advantage to 35-31, and Carolina inched closer to the lead when a pair free throws from Wilson made it a two-point game at 35-33 with 7:14 to play in the period. Coates' efforts down low resulted in another offensive board and layup that brought the Gamecocks to within three of the lead at 40-37 midway through the quarter. The Gamecock offense again stalled down the stretch, as Carolina made just two of its final 11 shots of the period and scored two points over the final 4:44 of the quarter. UConn took advantage and ended the period on an 11-2 run to build a 51-39 cushion through 30 minutes.
UConn's lead quickly shrank to single digits when Harris knocked down a 3-pointer 26 seconds into the fourth period to make it 51-42. Two free throws by the Huskies pushed the advantage back to double-digits at 53-42 less than a minute later, and the margin went back to 11 when Cuevas-Moore converted a 3-pointer to cut the UConn advantage to 59-48 with 5:30 left to play. The Gamecocks couldn't get any closer, and Connecticut remained in control the rest of the way.
Carolina held the Huskies to just 4-of-17 shooting from the 3-point line and finished the game with 15 points off 12 UConn turnovers. The Gamecocks shot 35.1 percent from the floor for the game and converted nine of their 14 free throw attempts.
UConn's 11-2 run to end the third quarter created a double-digit deficit for the Gamecocks as the teams headed to the final break. Carolina would not get any closer than nine points of the lead the rest of the contest.
After shooting nearly 50.0 percent from the floor in the first half, Carolina struggled to find its stroke over the final two quarters. The Gamecocks shot 26.5 percent from the field over the last 20 minutes and made just three of their final 13 attempts from the 3-point line.
- Monday's loss snapped Carolina's seven-game road winning streak over ranked opponents.
- UConn's 66 points against the Gamecocks were a season low for the Huskies.
- Carolina senior center Alaina Coates has recorded a double-double in four of the Gamecocks' five games against top-10 opponents this season.
- Gamecock junior A'ja Wilson's three blocks led all players in the game. The performance marked the seventh time this season the forward has totaled at least three blocks in a game.