SEC Women’s Tourney: #Gamecocks muscle past Ole Miss as Boston sets rebounding mark (AUDIO)

Zia Cooke posted 14 points in the Gamecocks semifinal win over Ole Miss (Elaina Eichorn/SEC)

BON SECOURS ARENA, GREENVILLE: Top-ranked South Carolina flexed its muscle once again, Saturday, eliminating Ole Miss 80-51 on its way to the SEC Championship game. The Gamecocks showcased their defensive versatility and depth in dominating one of the conference’s better teams.

Aliyah Boston (10 points, 11 rebounds) broke Sheila Foster’s rebounding mark on her way to another double-double, the 80th of her career. But the story of this game was how well the Gamecocks defended Ole Miss star Angel Baker. Dawn Staley threw multiple defenders at Baker with Brea Beal, Laticia Amihere and Raven Johnson taking turns hassling Baker. Baker, who hit 46% of her shots this season, was limited to nine points on 4 of 15 shooting. The Gamecocks patrolled the paint, too, blocking 14 shots.

Amihere played with great intensity on both ends of the floor, harassing Baker on one end while putting up a game-high 17 points on the other. After struggling to find her groove in the quarterfinal game against Arkansas, Zia Cooke bounced back with 14 points.

In their previous matchup, Ole Miss surprised USC with a zone, putting the Gamecocks ill at ease before falling in overtime. But this time around, South Carolina was prepared for everything the Rebels had up their sleeve. With Ole Miss unable to hit their perimeter shots consistently, the Gamecocks bludgeoned the Rebels in the lane and on the boards. Through two SEC Tournament games, USC has outscored its opponents 114-38 in the paint.

As the game wore on, there was no relief from the Gamecocks onslaught as Staley’s reserves kept the pressure on, outscoring Ole Miss 22-12 in the fourth quarter. Kamilla Cardoso came off the bench and dominated on the block, going for 12 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks.

It remains to be seen if starting guard Kierra Fletcher will be available for the next game. Fletcher took a tumble in the first half after getting her foot tangled up with an Ole Miss player and was helped to the locker room. Staley said Fletcher will have to be evaluated before they can determine her availability.

South Carolina (31-0) will put its 37-game winning streak on the line and go for its seventh SEC Championship Tournament title under Staley at 3 p.m., Sunday. To get it done, USC will have to go through the winner of LSU-Tennessee.

Final Stats

Kamilla Cardoso helped USC again dominate around the basket, Saturday (Elaina Eichorn/SEC)

Gamecocks postgame press conference with Dawn Staley
and Laticia Amihere

Laticia Amihere scored a game-high 17 and made life difficult on Angel Baker (Todd Van Emst/SEC)

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