COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Destanni Henderson had seven of her 11 points in a decisive third-quarter run as No. 1 South Carolina pulled away from Missouri 77-62 Thursday night for its 30th straight win against Southeastern Conference competition.
Zia Cooke shook off a poor start to finish with 15 points for the Gamecocks while Aliyah Boston had 11 points and 12 rebounds for her ninth double-double this season and 22nd of her college career.
It was a satisfying win for South Carolina (16-2, 11-0 SEC), which was beaten at No. 2 UConn on Monday night only hours after returning to No. 1.
But Missouri (7-8, 3-7) made it difficult, trailing just 45-44 midway through the third quarter before Henderson took over. She hit a jumper, and then another driving basket where she was fouled. After missing the free throw, South Carolina rebounded and Henderson was open for a 3-pointer and a 52-44 lead with 2:30 left in the period.
Missouri could not respond and lost for the fifth time in its past seven games and fourth in a row to South Carolina.
The Gamecocks, second in the SEC at 81 points a game, took awhile to crank up its attack after posting its second fewest points in a game this season
Missouri kept making shots the first 25 minutes while the Gamecocks struggled to find the basket.
The Tigers, who lead the SEC in field goal percentage, shot 14 of 25 (56 percent) in the first half in a 36-all game at the half.
South Carolina, meanwhile, went through stretches of poor shooting. It missed 12 of 14 shots toward the end of the first quarter and its final five in the second period after moving in front 36-31 late.
Lauren Hansen hit a 3-pointer and Hayley Frank added a basket in the final two minutes to head to the locker room tied.
The Tigers have had a habit of hanging close with the SEC’s top teams this season. They lost a pair of games to ranked Arkansas by a combined eight points. They’ve also had a four-point loss to No. 6 Texas A&M and a six-point defeat to No. 20 Kentucky.
Shug Dickson had 15 points to lead Missouri. LaDazhia Williams and Aijha Blackwell, who combine to average almost 29 points a game, were held to just 17 between them.
THE BIG PICTURE
Missouri: The Tigers came close once more against a ranked opponent, but didn’t have the speed or strength to keep up with South Carolina. Things don’t get easier as Missouri plays four ranked opponents in its final five regular season games.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have a tendency to start slow and go through stretches where even the simplest, closest shots seem to miss the mark. While they’re sure to drop from No. 1, they have a smart, savvy lineup that will have them contending for a national title.
The Gamecocks started building their lead in the third quarter, but a quick 4-0 run from the Tigers cut it back to one, 45-44. Destanni Henderson took control, hitting a jumper on a fast break and following that with a layup and a three from the left corner to push the lead to eight, and beyond Missouri’s reach.
After Missouri 56.0 percent in the first half (14-of-25), the Gamecock defense locked the Tigers down in the second, allowing just 26 points on 9-of-22 shooting (.273).
Carolina extended its program-record regular-season SEC winning streak to 27 games, the streak dates back to the Jan. 2, 2020, clash against No. 13/13 Kentucky.
The Gamecocks pulled down 14 offensive rebounds in the game, leading to 14 second-chance points.
The South Carolina defense continued to hold teams in check with the Tigers becoming the 14th opponent to fall short of the 65-point plateau this season.
Sophomore Zia Cooke slammed the door on any Missouri runs with eight fourth-quarter points to finish with a game high 15 points. After a slow first-half, she shot 5-of-7 in the second half.
Sophomore Aliyah Boston started strong with five points and five rebounds in the first quarter on her way to 11 points and 12 boards, giving her nine double-doubles on the season. Boston also notched four blocks, moving her into a tie for eighth place in program history with 140.
Junior Destanni Henderson finished with 11 points, including her seven-point explosion in the third that put Carolina in front for good. Henderson also rang up four steals, a new career high for her in SEC play and one off her overall career high.
Junior Victaria Saxton scored six of her 10 points in the first quarter and finished the game with six rebounds. Saxton has scored in double figures in four of the last five games, and in four straight SEC contests.