In a matchup of two of basketball's best programs, South Carolina asserted its dominance Sunday.
The top-ranked Gamecocks ran away from No. 11 UConn at home in an 83-65 blowout that they controlled from the opening tip. They opened a 19-11 first-quarter lead while holding the Huskies to their lowest first-quarter tally of the season. They extended the lead to 44-30 at halftime, then rode a 9-0 third-quarter run to enter the fourth with a 73-50 advantage.
When it was over, the Gamecocks remained unbeaten at 23-0 and continued to look like the favorite to win their third NCAA championship since 2017. It was a balanced South Carolina effort that saw four starters score in double figures as the Gamecocks repeatedly forced UConn's stars into difficult looks from the floor.
South Carolina secured the win without All-America candidate Kamilla Cardoso, who missed her second straight game while playing for Brazil's national team in Olympic qualifying games. Cardoso is expected to return in time for Thursday's game against Tennessee, making the Gamecocks that much better. They were plenty good against UConn without her.
Te-Hina Paopao paced the Gamecocks with a game-high 21 points alongside three rebounds and two assists. She did most of her damage before halftime, posting 16 first-half points as South Carolina took control. She was the best shooter on the floor, connecting on 5-of-7 3-point attempts.
— South Carolina Women's Basketball (@GamecockWBB) February 11, 2024
Ashlyn Watkins filled up the box score with 15 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals. Chloe Kitts added 14 points and four rebounds, while Raven Johnson double-doubled with 10 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Paopao, Watkins and Johnson all shot better than 50% from the field as the Gamecocks shot 46.5% as a team, including a 7-of-19 (36.8%) effort from 3-point distance. South Carolina's defense, meanwhile, limited UConn to 36.6% shooting from the floor and 30.4% (7 of 23) from 3-point distance. The Gamecocks controlled the glass as well, posting a 47-37 rebounding edge.
Paige Bueckers and Aaliyah Edwards paced the Huskies with 20 points each. Edwards was the only UConn player to hit more than half of her shots in an 8-for-13 effort. She added 12 rebounds and three assists. Bueckers shot 8-of-20 from the field, including 2-of-6 from 3-point distance while adding five rebounds and three assists.
Ashlynn Shade struggled to 14 points while shooting 2-of-11 from long distance. KK Arnold shot 1-of-7 from the floor while tallying two points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals. The loss dropped UConn to 20-5. The Huskies will face another road game on Wednesday against Xavier.