No. 1 South Carolina takes down Angel Reese, No. 9 LSU to remain undefeated

In a matchup of two SEC schools with Final Four aspirations, No. 1 South Carolina kept its undefeated season alive Thursday, overcoming a five-point halftime deficit to defeat No. 9 LSU 76-70.

Gamecocks sophomore forward Chloe Kitts led South Carolina with 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field. Thanks to a balanced scoring attack, the Gamecocks rallied back from a margin that reached as high as 11 points at one point. All told, each member of South Carolina’s starting lineup scored in double figures and it received 16 combined bench points, compared to just 4 from the Tigers reserves.

LSU led for the majority of the contest, but its defense struggled in the fourth quarter allowing 24 points. Star forward Angel Reese scored 15 points and added eight rebounds, but she fouled out 4:02 remaining in the game. When she retreated to the bench, the Tigers led 67-65.

But with her sidelined, South Carolina closed the contest on an 11-3 run, with all 11 points coming from either guard Raven Johnson or guard Bree Hall, who hit two 3s in the final three minutes. Forward Aneesah Morrow finished the LSU loss with a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double, and three other Tigers finished with double figures.

Playing in front of a raucous sellout crowd of 13,205, LSU had been looking to both extend its 29-game home winning streak and also snap a streak of 14 consecutive loses to South Carolina. For a while Thursday, it appeared as if both would occur, but the Gamecocks thrived in the game’s waning minutes. South Carolina entered the game as the No. 1 team nationally in both offensive and defensive rating.

With the win, the Gamecocks remain the lone unbeaten school in Division I basketball.

South Carolina (18-0, 6-0 SEC) will look to keep its undefeated season going Sunday when it hosts Vanderbilt. LSU (18-3, 5-2), meanwhile, will travel to play Mississippi State on Monday night.

Angel Reese won the battle, but lost the war

In the face-off between presumptive 2024 WNBA Draft picks, Reese won her individual matchup against Kamilla Cardoso, outscoring the South Carolina center 15-11 and blocking her 6-foot-7 counterpart on multiple occasions. Reese’s motor was higher and her effort level drove the Tigers.

However, Reese was undisciplined with her fouls, tugging on Cardoso’s jersey for her fourth and swiping at Raven Johnson for her fifth, leaving the LSU star on the bench for the final 4:02 minutes. The Tigers would only score once more after Reese fouled out.LSU was plus-10 in the 29 minutes that Reese played but outscored by 20 during the 17 minutes that her primary backup, freshman center Aalyah Del Rosario, was on the floor.

With sophomore big Sa’Myah Smith out for the season, the Tigers can’t afford for Reese to take herself out of games, especially against top-tier opposition like South Carolina. — Sabreena Merchant, women’s basketball staff writer

South Carolina’s depth shines

LSU didn’t make its first sub of the game until 6:54 to play in the second quarter, when Del Rosario came in for Reese. Other than the freshman center, Last-Tear Poa was the only other Tiger to come in off the bench, and she played for a grand total of three minutes. The pair combined for four points in the loss.

Meanwhile, South Carolina’s second unit flourished. Sania Feagin played competent defense on Reese and chipped in six points and four rebounds — two on the offensive end as the Gamecocks edged the home team in second-chance points 14-13. MiLaysia Fulwiley canned two triples, including one at the halftime buzzer that gave South Carolina momentum heading into the break.

And Ashlyn Watkins was Dawn Staley’s ace defensive substitute in the fourth quarter. When Kitts was getting overpowered by Reese and Aneesah Morrow, Watkins stepped in to handle the assignment. — Merchant

Another banner night for women’s basketball

This wasn’t the highest-ranked matchup of the season (No. 2 UCLA versus No. 3 Colorado last Friday was the lone top-five showdown thus far), but the battle of the SEC rivals met the moment. The crowd in Baton Rouge was electrifying, and the teams treated the game with NCAA Tournament intensity.

It was yet another spectacular showcase of the sport in a year that has been full of them. — Merchant

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(Photo: Matthew Hinton / USA Today)

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