COLUMBIA, S.C. — Te-Hina Paopao scored 21 points with five 3-pointers and Raven Johnson added 10 points and 12 rebounds as No. 1 South Carolina pulled away early to win its fourth straight over No. 11 UConn 83-65 on Sunday.
The Gamecocks (23-0) won their 54th consecutive game at home and their second one this week without leading scorer and rebounder Kamilla Cardoso, who is playing in an Olympic qualifier in her home country of Brazil.
It did not matter who coach Dawn Staley put on the court, it was too much for the Huskies (19-5) in this one.
Ashlyn Watkins finished with 15 points, nine boards and three blocked shots while teammate Chloe Kitts had 14 points for the Gamecocks.
UConn hung tight early on and was down just 11-9 after Ashlynn Shade’s 3-pointer midway through the opening period.
But the South Carolina took flight after that, using a 24-11 run over the next 10 minutes to go up by double digits. UConn never got closer than 12 points the rest of the way as South Carolina moved to 6-0 this season against ranked opponents.
South Carolina’s smothering defense was a big factor, fronting Bueckers throughout. The UConn star finished with 20 points, but on 8-of-20 shooting.
Aaliyah Edwards had 20 points and 11 rebounds for UConn.
The Huskies shot just 5 of 19 (26%) in the opening quarter as South Carolina steadily built its lead.
Watkins brought the sold-out crowd to its feet in the first quarter with a chase-down block of streaking KK Arnold, who looked like she had a clear lane to a layup.
THE BIG PICTURE
UConn: When this series began, the Huskies were by far the better program and the most dominant in the country. Now, UConn is clearly a step or two behind the Gamecocks, who have won both their national titles since the Huskies’ last in 2016.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks are streaking just like a year ago where a group of experienced upperclassmen made it all the way to the Final Four before losing to Iowa. These South Carolina youngsters look every bit as determined to go further this year.
UConn travels to face Xavier on Wednesday night.
South Carolina will play at Tennessee on Thursday night.
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