Colombia, SC — Hearing the names UConn and South Carolina naturally can strike fear in all of their NCAA opponents, so when these two names are in the same conversation, the basketball world stops as they disrupt the peace.
Thursday night, the Gamecocks and Huskies went to work on the hardwood as the two teams took a small break from conference play for a highly-anticipated match-up.
However, not afraid of the spotlight, the No. 1 UConn Huskies stormed past South Carolina as they continue to remain untouchable, extending its record to 21-0 – making them one of two teams still undefeated in Division 1. The Huskies led the entire game and defeated the No.7 South Carolina Gamecocks, 83-58.
The well-coached UConn team under Geno Auriemma noticed South Carolina’s defensive flaws early in the game and made them pay for it repeatedly, by punching them over and over as the Huskies penetrated the Gamecocks’ defense.
At one point, the game was 41-18...there was still 4:28 remaining in the second frame.
“Yeah we’re undersized, but we’re going to battle, fight, push the ball, and we’re going to do what we normally do,” said Coach Auriemma. “We knew there were some things that we could not stop, but we also had a feeling going in that we were going do things that they were going to struggle with.”
Watching the game, you could say the Huskies were unbothered by their Gamecock rival and the possession of their 2017 national title. The white-out game could’ve been mistaken for a blackout as UConn effortlessly knocked the hopes out of the Gamecocks causing an upset.
South Carolina failed to disrupt UConn’s offensive flow. They were a well-oiled machine that knocked down shots left and right from various players on the court. In fact, the Huskies had four players score at least 10 points compared to its opponent who only had two.
The No. 1 team in the nation shot 41% from the field as compared to the No. 7 team in the nation who shot 32.8%.
“UConn can take control of the game when you’re not getting back, turning the ball over, and giving them second opportunities to score points,” said Coach Dawn Staley. “Then you’re coming up with empty possessions. Once you have those lapses, it’s hard to overcome.”
Despite Gabby Williams showing there is still a struggle with her hip injury, she was able to contribute 14 points. Yet, it was her toughness on the boards which stood out as she collected a team-high 14 rebounds — six came on the offensive end which as Staley eluded to, gave the Huskies second chances to score.
Kia Nurse was the catalyst tonight on the offensive end as her efforts kept UConn in the lead with 23 points, followed by Katie Lou Samuelson with 20 points of her own.
Not only were the Huskies balanced with scoring, its defense was locked in on everyone for South Carolina. UConn made the night dreadful for the Gamecocks’ confidence when it came to shooting. Outside of Bianca Jackson, the home team couldn’t buy a basket and after a turnover, South Carolina really looked deflated trotting back on defense to catch-up with an energized Husky player.
A game that was hyped up turned into another rout by UConn. The Huskies continue to not let up on its opponent as they defeated its seventh Top 25 team in the nation this year.
Jackson led the Gamecocks with 20 points, and A’ja Wilson was able to put up 14 and 16 rebounds, but all other South Carolina players did not score over eight points.
Outside of Samuleson, Nurse, and Williams, Napheesa Collier contributed 19 points for UConn.
With a short turnaround, a rematch of last season’s NCAA Finals between South Carolina and the No.2 Mississippi State Bulldogs (undefeated at 23-0) will take place on Monday, Feb. 5th at 7 p.m. on ESPN 2 at home in the Colonial Life Arena.
The UConn Huskies will return to the court on Sunday (Feb. 4) to face Cincinnati.
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images