Paige Bueckers Drops 19 as No. 2 UConn Falls to No. 1 South Carolina

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVNovember 22, 2021

South Carolina forward Aliyah Boston (4) during the first half of a college basketball game against the Oregon State in the second round of the women's NCAA tournament at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Tuesday, March 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
AP Photo/Eric Gay

South Carolina is the best team in the women's college basketball. There can be no doubt about that now. 

The No. 1 Gamecocks defeated No. 2 UConn 73-57 on Monday in the championship game of the Women's Battle 4 Atlantis, overcoming a 13-point first-half deficit. 

ESPN @espn

DESTINY LITTLETON FOR THREEEEE 🔥<a href="https://twitter.com/GamecockWBB?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@GamecockWBB</a> takes the lead at the end of the 3rd quarter!<br><br>📺 4th quarter starts NOW on ESPN <a href="https://t.co/bvcvSJwleH">pic.twitter.com/bvcvSJwleH</a>

ESPN @espn

Destanni Henderson is too smooth with it 🙌<br><br>No. 1 South Carolina ends the game on a 10-0 run to beat No. 2 UConn 73-57! <a href="https://t.co/JNQ8HAALHA">pic.twitter.com/JNQ8HAALHA</a>

Big games from Aliyah Boston (22 points, 15 rebounds) and Zia Cooke (17 points) and South Carolina's domination on the boards (41-26, with 18 offensive rebounds) proved too much for Paige Bueckers and the Huskies to overcome. 

Bueckers (19 points, seven assists, five rebounds) provided her expected offensive spark. But South Carolina's defense and depth paved the way for a dominant win, especially in the second half, when the Gamecocks outscored UConn 40-21 and held the Huskies to just three fourth-quarter points.

The Gamecocks also turned the ball over just three times in the second half after 11 first-half giveaways. That helped them overcome a poor shooting day from the perimeter (5-of-18 from deep, 27.8 percent). 

It also helped that Boston controlled the paint in the second half. Not that South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley was surprised to see that level of dominance.

"It's time. It's time for Boston to be the dominant player that she is," she said in her postgame interview on ESPN. "I think she sells herself short a lot."

Bueckers may have been the big name in this matchup, but Boston was clearly the most dominant player on the court:

Rachel Galligan @RachGall

There’s just no answer for Aliyah Boston. A dominant performance by South Carolina today proving why they’re the No. 1 team in the country.

Maggie Hendricks @maggiehendricks

That was a hell of a statement by South Carolina, and I cannot wait to see what Aliyah Boston does next.

Myron Medcalf @MedcalfByESPN

Aliyah Boston the most dominant post presence in college basketball, men's or women's.

Kim Adams @Kim_Adams1

South Carolina. The clear better team in the second half. The shift started by setting the tone defensively right out of the locker room.<br><br>Love their balance of fiery perimeter play + Aliyah Boston inside.<br><br>Coach Staley 👏🏼

John Fanta @John_Fanta

Aliyah Boston’s level of physicality and toughness is such a constant. She’s relentless, and has been a driving force in this 1-2 showdown for South Carolina.

Statement games still only count once in the win column. But for a South Carolina program stinging from last year's Final Four loss to Stanford—and eager to prove it deserved the top overall ranking this season—Monday's victory was big. 

Up next for the Gamecocks is a home matchup against Elon on Friday at 3 p.m. ET. UConn will look to get back on track on the road against Seton Hall Friday at 7 p.m. ET.