Aliyah Boston comes alive late to lead No. 1 South Carolina to win as No. 2 Stanford collapses down the stretch
Things didn't start well for Aliyah Boston on Sunday. After the first half, Boston had just 2 points and found her team down 35-31 entering halftime. Boston refused to stay down for long. She came alive in overtime to help lead No. 1 South Carolina to a narrow 76-71 win over No. 2 Stanford.
The contest looked like an upset early. The Cardinal dominated in the first quarter. Junior forward Cameron Brink started strong, scoring 12 first-quarter points. Stanford went on a 16-5 run to finish the quarter, and led 21-11 when the quarter ended. Brink had 12 points. The rest of Stanford combined for 9 points.
Led by its bench, South Carolina got its act together in the second half. With its five starters on the bench, South Carolina went on a 9-0 run. Olivia Thompson hit a key three and Raven Johnson added two straight buckets to cut Stanford's lead to one point. The Cardinal answered back, and had a five-point lead with under a minute to go in the first half. Laeticia Amihere hit a free throw to cut Stanford's lead to four points. The Cardinal entered halftime with a 35-31 lead. After starting strong, Brink did not score a point in the second quarter.
The two teams traded scores early in the third quarter, but two consecutive threes — the first by Brink and the second by Talana Lepolo — gave the Cardinal a six-point lead. As South Carolina tried to battle back, Ashten Prechtel hit another three-pointer for Stanford. The two traded baskets down the stretch, but Kiki Iriafen hit a layup with under a second to go in the quarter to extend Stanford's lead to 10 points.
South Carolina refused to go down without a fight. The team clawed its way back in to the game thanks to strong defensive plays. Brea Beal forced a steal and picked up an assist on a Zia Cooke layup to cut Stanford's lead to four points. Beal picked up a block and defensive rebound on Stanford's next possession. The next time down the court, Boston blocked Haley Jones to keep the game close. Stanford went 0-for-9 from the field to open the fourth quarter.
Cameron Brink has big day for Stanford before fouling out
With four minutes to play, Brink — who saw limited minutes in the second half due to foul trouble — hit a free throw to give Stanford its first points of the quarter. South Carolina continued to put on pressure in the game's closing minutes. Amihere hit a layup with under three minutes to cut Stanford's lead to one point. Brink was then fouled by Boston and hit both free throws to make it a three-point game. That gave Boston her fourth foul of the contest.
Stanford continued to feed Brink with the game on the line. Brink converted a layup with 2:05 left. She drew a foul on the play, hitting the field throw to give Stanford a four-point lead. With 14.9 seconds to play, Beal hit a three to cut Stanford's lead to one point. With South Carolina desperate to get the ball back, the team fouled Jones. She missed her first free throw, but hit the second, giving Stanford a two-point lead.
With time running out, Boston drained a shot with 2.1 seconds remaining to tie things up. Stanford couldn't convert on its final possession, sending the game to overtime.
Brink continued to lead the Cardinal in overtime. On the team's first possession, she drew a foul and hit both free throws. She added another two-pointer on the team's next offensive possession. Brink missed a three- pointer on the team's next drive, but picked up a block on South Carolina's next defensive drive. South Carolina kept possession and forced Brink to foul out of the contest.
Aliyah Boston dazzles in overtime as Stanford forgets how many timeouts are left
With Brink out, Boston took over for South Carolina. She hit shots on two consecutive drives for South Carolina, giving it a 70-69 lead with 1:10 to play. Boston had just 2 points at halftime. She finished the contest with 14 points and 13 rebounds. On the next drive, Boston found Hall, who hit a three-pointer to put South Carolina up four. Hall finished with a career-high 12 points.
Boston fouled out on Stanford's next drive. Iriafen hit both free throws to cut Stanford's deficit to two points. Victaria Saxton was fouled on South Carolina's next drive. She missed both free throws, but South Carolina maintained possession after a jump ball.
South Carolina inbounded the ball, but Stanford opted not to foul. The decision paid off. Agnes Emma-Nnopu picked up a steal. With a chance to tie things up at in the final seconds, Stanford was called for a 5-second violation.
Bael was fouled with 5.6 seconds to play, but missed both free throws. Iriafen grabbed the rebound for Stanford and immediately called a time out. Stanford was charged with a technical foul after refs determined the team did not have a time out left. Cooke hit both free throws to increase South Carolina's lead. She was fouled again and hit one final free throw to give South Carolina a 76-71 win.
The victory continues a troubling trend for Stanford. In games between the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams, Stanford is now 1-10. Stanford dropped to 5-1 this season after Sunday's loss. South Carolina, meanwhile, is 4-0 to open the season after winning the national championship last year.