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WOMENS BASKETBALL


South Carolina 89, Florida 66

South Carolina 89, Florida 66

BY MARK LONG
ASSOCIATED PRESS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Te-Hina Paopao scored 17 points, Raven Johnson added 16 and top-ranked South Carolina opened Southeastern Conference play with an 89-66 drubbing of Florida.

Bree Hall added 15 points for the undefeated Gamecocks (13-0), who won for the 55th time in their last 56 games and extended their conference winning streak to 17.

Kamilla Cardoso chipped in 10 points and 15 rebounds for the visitors, who also got eight boards and six blocks from Ashlyn Watkins.

The Gators (9-4) lost their 16th straight in the series. This one was never close.

South Carolina led 21-6 early and was up 17 at the end of the first quarter thanks partly to Paopao hitting all four shots from 3-point range.

Leilani Correa kept Florida in it in the second quarter — almost single-handedly, too. Correa scored 17 consecutive points for the Gators to start the frame, including back-to-back 3s that helped trim down a 17-point lead. She led the way with 27 points on 11 of 20 shooting.

Correa scored 17 of Florida’s 19 points in the second and even outscored the Gamecocks by one. She needed more help but it never came.

Leading scorer Aliyah Matharu, who entered the game averaging 19 points, finished with 10. She missed 15 of her first 16 shots, including nine from 3-point range.

South Carolina ended any thoughts of a comeback when it opened the second half with a 15-0 run, turning a 14-point lead into a laugher. Florida’s Ra Shaya Kyle stopped the spurt with a layup with 6 minutes to play in the period.

It did little to halt the Gamecocks’ momentum.

BIG PICTURE

South Carolina: The Gamecocks are still one of the best teams in the country, even without three-time All-American Aliyah Boston. She was the WNBA’s rookie of the year. They’re motivated by last year’s loss to Iowa in a national semifinal and look to be as close as possible to a lock to make it back — or beyond.

Florida: The Gators have a talented trio of senior starters in Matharu, Correa and Kyle. Freshman Laila Reynolds gives them another scorer. But they don’t have much else, which should pose problems against the SEC’s elite — like South Carolina. Nonetheless, it’s a core that should be able to get Florida back to the NCAA Tournament.


January 4, 2024





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