Gamecocks advance to championship in dominant fashion
Greenville, S.C.- No. 1 seed South Carolina (31-0, 16-0 SEC) took down No. 4 seed Ole Miss, 80-51, in the semifinals of the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament on Saturday at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina.
The last time these teams met on Feb. 19, it required a gritty OT 64-57 win for top-ranked South Carolina to edge out the Rebels, but this matchup, the Gamecocks dominated from start to finish.
Laeticia Amihere came off the bench and instantly provided a spark for the Gamecocks as she tabbed a season-high 17 points with seven assists and three blocks, while Aliyah Boston recorded her ninth double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds) in the SEC Tournament, which is the most by any SEC player in the past 20 seasons, and now sits six shy of the conference record.
Madison Scott was the lone Rebel to crack the double-digit scoring threshold with 15. Angel Baker and Tyia Singleton added nine each. Baker notched seven rebounds and Singleton shot 3-of-4 from three.
Baker broke the scoring seal open as she drained a midrange pull-up jumper. Both teams struggled in converting their offensive opportunities as the defense on both sides held stout. However, the Gamecocks made the first push, going up 11-4 in the first media timeout.
The three-pointers started to reign down for both teams as four straight possessions were triples, 19-10.
The momentum really started to swing South Carolina's way after an Ole Miss airball led to an Amihere tough layup while being fouled, giving the Gamecocks' a 25-14 lead to end the first. Their largest lead during the regular season matchup was only seven.
Ole Miss shot 27.8% from the field, while South Carolina outscored Ole Miss in the paint 22-6 in the first half. The Rebels went into the break down 40-25, making it their second time trailing by double digits at half.
The shooting woes continued for Ole Miss into the second half as South Carolina held them scoreless until 6:00 remaining in the period when Singleton knocked down a three, 45-28.
Ole Miss took advantage of South Carolina's miscues and started to have a flow on offense but it wasn't enough to close in on the Gamecocks' lead at the end of the third, 58-39.
In the final two minutes, roars came from the crowd as South Carolina marked its nineteenth win by 25+ points this season, advancing to the SEC Tournament championship.
At the 7:37 mark in the third, Aaliyah Boston became the program's rebound record holder with 1,428, passing Sheila Foster's record of 1,427.
Amihere became the first player with 15 points, five rebounds and five assists off the bench in an SEC tourney game over the past 20 seasons.
The Gamecocks became the third team in SEC history to have blocked at least 10 shots in multiple games in the same SEC Tournament, eight of South Carolina's 14 blocks came from the first half.
South Carolina leads Division I with 45.3 paint points per game and scored 54 in the paint during the semifinal matchup.
South Carolina will face 3-seed Tennessee in the championship of the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament on Sunday at 3 P.M. This will be aired on ESPN.
Ole Miss (23-8, 11-5 SEC) is eliminated from the tournament.