South Carolina women's basketball maintained its unbeaten record with a resounding 74-58 victory over the 3-seed Tennessee in the conference championship game held at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville. The win was a sweet redemption for the Gamecocks' upperclassmen who were defeated in the 2022 title game by a formidable Kentucky team.
Despite the Lady Vols' impressive comeback win against LSU in the semifinals, South Carolina never let them gain momentum. Led by senior guard Zia Cooke's outstanding performance of 24 points, the Gamecocks held onto their lead from start to finish. This was Cooke's seventh game of the season scoring 20 points or more.
South Carolina's defense, which leads the nation, was in full force, holding the Lady Vols to 19 points below their average of 77. The Gamecocks implemented an aggressive man-to-man defense, preying on Tennessee's turnover troubles, ultimately scoring 15 points off 11 turnovers by the Lady Vols.
Tennessee kept the game close during the first quarter and much of the second, trailing by only six points at halftime. However, South Carolina extended their lead to the largest of the game during the third quarter with a 7-0 run over two minutes, entering the fourth quarter with a comfortable 55-42 lead.
Moreover, South Carolina's defense held Tennessee scoreless for more than four minutes during a 10-0 run in the second quarter, and the Lady Vols went without a field goal for six minutes in the third quarter, shooting only 3-of-17 compared to South Carolina's 6-of-14. Even star Tennessee guard Jordan Horston, who put up an impressive 14 points and five rebounds in the first half, was held to zero points in the third quarter and only five in the second half.
Aliyah Boston didn't finish with a double-double, but secured 18 points and seven rebounds for South Carolina.