Kia Nurse scored 23 points and Katie Lou Samuelson added 20 as No. 1 UConn powered past defending national champ South Carolina 83-58 on Thursday night.
The Huskies opened things up early to lead 53-24 at the half on their way to a 21-0 start for the fourth time in five seasons. They extended their NCAA mark with their 48th straight road win and, if anyone needed more evidence, marked themselves the clear favorite for another NCAA title.
No. 7 South Carolina (18-4) fell to 0-6 all-time against UConn and 0-15 in program history against No. 1 teams.
The Gamecocks had hoped All-American A'ja Wilson, a sellout crowd and a super-charged atmosphere at Colonial Life Arena might rattle the Huskies. Instead it was UConn showing it was more than up to the challenge. Nurse hit two straight threes and Samuelson added one of her own as UConn broke on top 13-4 in the first four minutes.
The Huskies poured it on with a 19-2 start to the second quarter that ended any hopes of a South Carolina surprise.
A brief Gamecocks rally cut a 33-point lead down to 21 in the third quarter, but it was nowhere near enough.
Napheesa Collier had 19 points and five blocks while Gabby Williams had 14 points and 14 rebounds.
Wilson, the two-time defending Southeastern Conference player of the year, struggled from the field, going 4 of 18 for 14 points. She also had 16 rebounds and six blocks. Wilson was recruited hard by UConn before picking the Gamecocks and lost to the Huskies all four of her college seasons.
Freshman Bianca Jackson had a career high 20 points for the Gamecocks.
QUOTABLE DAWN STALEY
On having their goals still in front of them for the rest of the season
"In these types of games, you have to take away what went well. We all know what went wrong, but we had some things that went well. If we get an opportunity to play them again, we will utilize those things."
• The Gamecocks concluded non-conference action with a mark of 11-2.
• Sixteen of Gamecock freshman guard’s Bianca Jackson career-high 20 points came in the second half. She netted 10 points in the third quarter, accounting for Carolina’s first seven points of the period.
• Thursday marked Jackson’s fourth double-digit scoring performance this season, and it was the second time she paced Carolina on offense.
• Carolina senior forward A’ja Wilson finished with 14 points and 16 rebounds. The Hopkins, S.C., native has recorded a double-double in five of her seven outings against ranked foes this season.
The Huskies opened the second quarter on a 17-2 run to establish a 23-point lead midway through the period. UConn shot 61.1 percent (11-of-18) for the quarter and headed into the half with a 53-24 advantage.
Defense led to offense for a Husky squad that boasted a 23-3 advantage in points off turnovers. Thursday marked just the sixth time this season the Gamecocks didn’t hold the edge in the statistical category.
The Gamecocks return to action on Mon., Feb. 5, when they face No. 2/2 Mississippi State on the road in Starkville, Miss. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. ET, and the game will air on ESPN2.