Aliyah Boston starts, No. 1 South Carolina rallies to beat UCLA

COLUMBIA, South Carolina — Aliyah Boston looked healthier than ever, and that’s rarely a good thing for No. 1 South Carolina’s opponents.

Boston had 18 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks as the Gamecocks rallied 10 points to beat No. 15 UCLA 73-64 on Tuesday night.

The reigning AP Player of the Year missed the second half in a win over Hampton on Sunday after a hard crash. She returned to the bench in that game with a walking boot on her right foot.

But Boston started and played 35 minutes against the Bruins (7-1) to help the Gamecocks (7-0) overcome a 31-21 deficit just before halftime to win their 17th straight against a ranked opponent. .

“I think the coaches did a great job with my ankle, so I feel pretty good,” said Boston, the 6-foot-5 senior who had his 65th career double-double and his 32nd against an opponent class.

Georgia Tech transfer Kierra Fletcher had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds while 6-foot-7 Kamilla Cardoso added a season-high 16 points, nine rebounds and five of 15 blocked shots Gamecocks.

Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley didn’t know for sure until hours before kickoff that Boston would be healthy enough to start. Staley said Boston woke up Monday feeling better and that made progress in Tuesday’s pregame preparations.

The game was tied at 47 – all going into the fourth quarter. That’s when the Gamecocks set up their stifling defense, limiting UCLA to just three field goals in the final 10 minutes.

“They were very disciplined in the fourth quarter with what they wanted to do,” UCLA coach Cori Close said. “We couldn’t stop this.”

Zia Cooke’s tiebreaker bucket with 5:37 left in the game put South Carolina in place for good at 54-52. The Gamecocks led up to 10 points in the final minutes.

Charisma Osborne led UCLA with 24 points while rookie Kiki Rice scored 16.

Early on, UCLA and Rice picked up the pace and pushed things through the heart of South Carolina’s stifling defense to take a 10-point lead late in the second quarter.

South Carolina has missed 11 straight shots during a streak, including a streak in which it had four straight chances from close quarters.

The Gamecocks showed some life in the final minutes as Boston had two blocks and a basket to cut things to 31-27 at the break. UCLA missed its last seven shots of the quarter.

Staley said she simplified the offense in the second half, leading Fletcher to several made-up baskets and Boston and Cardoso finding space under the basket.

“We made it very difficult for them,” Staley said.


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