TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) – Dawn Staley has “utmost confidence” in Bree Hall’s ability to deflect gunfire.
Hall rewarded that confidence handsomely with a career-high 18 points and four 3-pointers in No. 1 South Carolina’s 65-52 win over Alabama on Sunday. Gamecocks star Aliyah Boston had 16 points and 12 rebounds for her 14th double-double of the season.
“These are normal shots for[Hall]and if she gets them, she’ll knock them down 90% of the time,” said Staley, who wore Jalen Hurts’ #1 Philadelphia Eagles jersey in honor of the NFC Championship game was San Francisco 49ers. “They were in no hurry. They were in the flow of our offensive. She was ready. We have complete confidence in her to capture these recordings.”
The Gamecocks (21-0, 9-0 Southeastern Conference) earned their 27th straight win in a game that went into the third quarter.
Alabama (16-6, 5-4) drew within four points in the third quarter, but Hall, Boston and South Carolina defenses took over. The duo scored 11 straight points to give the Gamecocks a 48-35 advantage, the biggest of the game at the time.
Boston was shooting 8 of 10 and had four blocks and four assists. The reigning international of the year got plenty of help from Hall, who made half of her 8 three-point attempts.
When Hall came into play, he had made just 1 of 11 3s and was averaging 2.6 points.
“I feel like when I come into the game I think more about just letting the game come my way,” Hall said. “I try to play a really hard defense first, and then I’m like, ‘Okay, let’s try to get it going offensively.’
“I don’t usually go into the game thinking about a shot. I just let the game flow and come to myself.”
South Carolina’s top scorer Zia Cooke had six points — 10 below her season average.
“People talk about how good Aliyah Boston is, but Zia Cooke kind of leads this team,” said Alabama’s Sarah Ashlee Barker, who had a season-high 15 points. “You just have to acknowledge that and realize that she’s going to come out and try to get her shots and we did a really good job of knowing where she was on the ground.
“We just knew we had to limit their shots and take really hard, contested shots.”
Brittany Davis scored 11 of her 13 in the first half and had eight rebounds for the Tide, and Aaliyah Nye had eight points and played just 17 minutes before fouling.
Raven Johnson’s layup and a 3-pointer with 1:45 left gave the Gamecocks a 33-23 lead late in the first half. Alabama then ended a four-minute field-goal drought with Davis’ long 3-pointer with 19 seconds remaining, cutting the halftime lead to 33-26.
Alabama kept South Carolina 18 points below its season average.
“No moral victories. We expected to win today,” said Alabama coach Kristy Curry. “We fell short (against) a really good South Carolina team. It’s literally a tall order.”
South Carolina: The Gamecocks took 35 points off the bench but shot only 18 of 52 (35%) from the floor. They have won over the Tide 21 times in a row since 2008.
Alabama: In its third game in seven days, The Tide lost 89-51 to No. 4 LSU and beat Arkansas 69-66 with a late 3-pointer. Alabama has lost 41 straight games to top 5 teams.
Staley, an Eagles fan, made it clear she was looking forward to the big game, just not next Sunday’s clash with No. 5 UConn.
“Oh, I thought you were talking about the Eagles and the 49ers. I was so ready for that question,” Staley joked when asked about the Huskies game.
South Carolina: hosts Kentucky on Thursday night.
Alabama: Visits Missouri on February 5th.
AP Women’s College Basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll