COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Aliyah Boston had a career-high 28 points along with 16 rebounds and No. 5 South Carolina opened Southeastern Conference play with its 13th straight win over Florida, 75-59 on Thursday.
Boston, the 6-foot-5 sophomore, was dominant throughout as the Gamecocks (6-1) won their third in a row since the season’s lone loss, to No. 3 North Carolina State, 54-46 on Dec. 3.
Zia Cooke had 26 points for the Gamecocks.
South Carolina hadn’t played in two weeks since its 103-41 home victory over Temple on Dec. 17. And it looked as if the Gamecocks wouldn’t get this one in, either, when originally scheduled opponent Ole Miss had to postpone due to COVID-19 issues.
But Florida (7-2) stepped in — the Gators were originally scheduled to come to South Carolina on Feb. 25 — to start SEC play.
Early on, the Gators looked fully capable of hanging with the Gamecocks and were down only 16-13 after Lavender Briggs had two straight baskets in the second quarter. That’s when Boston and the Gamecocks got going with a 15-0 run to take control.
Boston had nine points in the surge and Cooke, the team’s top scorer this season, had four points.
When Boston slipped in a 3-pointer, the Gamecocks were up 31-13 and cruising.
Boston closed the half in dominating fashion, pulling down missed shot under the Florida basket with six seconds left, rushing up the court and stopping to pop a short jumper.
She reached a double-double by halftime with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Boston had her third double-double this season and 16th of her career. She also had four of South Carolina’s 10 blocks and a career best with three 3-pointers.
Florida cut a 22-point lead to 57-47 late in the third quarter, but the Gamecocks opened the final period with an 6-1 burst to win their 20th straight over SEC competition.
Briggs tied her career high with 23 points to lead the Gators.
THE BIG PICTURE
Florida: The Gators filled in when South Carolina’s game with Ole Miss was called off due to the Rebels’ coronavirus issues. The move gave Florida a run of the SEC’s top teams. After defending champion South Carolina, the Gators play No. 9 Texas A&M on Sunday and No. 12 Mississippi State on Thursday.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks lowered a banner from the arena rafters before the game, celebrating the team’s 2019-20 season when they went 32-1, won both the SEC regular and tournament titles and were ranked No. 1 in the country when COVID-19 shut down the NCAA Women’s Tournament. The banner features a big “#1” with “Final National Ranking” and “Unamious.”
Florida: Hosts No. 9 Texas A&M on Sunday.
South Carolina: At Alabama on Monday night.
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