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The Gamecocks (10-0 Southeastern Conference) stayed perfect at 22-0 and now head for an NCAA Tournament title game rematch at No. 5 UConn on Sunday.
Things weren’t perfect for South Carolina, which fell behind early, then had its 15-point halftime lead cut to 54-48 midway through the third quarter.
Still, its dominant inside game — South Carolina outscored the Wildcats 62-14 in the paint — was more than enough to shut down Kentucky (10-12, 2-8), the last team to defeat the defending national champions at the SEC Tournament last March.
The Wildcats went on top 16-15 after a pair of baskets by Adebola Adeyeye.
That’s when South Carolina, fueled by its bench, took control with a 17-2 run. Ashlyn Watkins had three inside shots and Kamilla Cardoso scored four points during the surge.
The Wildcats used a 13-4 burst to start the third quarter to give South Carolina a few uncomfortable moments. But the Gamecocks got going once more with an 11-0 run to extend their margin.
Cardoso, the 6-foot-7 reserve, had 14 points and five of South Carolina’s 14 blocks. Defensive ace Brea Beal had 10 including both of the Gamecocks’ 3-pointers.
Robyn Benton had 24 points to lead Kentucky, which has lost three of its past four games.
- Presence in the Paint: South Carolina dominated inside outscoring the Wildcats 62-14 with Kentucky shooting just 7-of-25 in the paint.
- Block Party – The Gamecocks blocked 14 of the Wildcats’ shots, tying their season high in an SEC game. It marked the ninth double-digit block game on the season.
- South Carolina continued to show its depth, with the bench scoring 55.2 percent of its points (48-of-87).
- Kamilla Cardoso ended the night with a team-high 14 points, scoring seven in the third quarter alone in addition to posting four of her five total blocks in the period.
- Aliyah Boston recorded her seventh consecutive double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds, scoring six as part of a 13-6 run by the Gamecocks in the third quarter.
- Brea Beal finished in double digits for the second time this season, scoring six of the team’s first eight points with back-to-back threes
- With her start, Victoria Saxton set a new record for the most games played in South Carolina women’s basketball history at 151 games.