In a highly anticipated showdown between No. 1 South Carolina and No. 9 LSU, the clash lived up to expectations, providing intense moments and a dramatic turn of events. The game’s pivotal moment came with a foul on LSU’s Angel Reese, altering the course of the game. South Carolina emerged victorious with a 76-70 win, maintaining their status as the last undefeated team in both women’s and men’s Division I basketball.
The matchup solidified South Carolina (17-0, 5-0 SEC) and LSU (18-2, 5-1) as formidable Final Four contenders, showcasing the prowess of the two recent national champions. The win positions South Carolina as a likely No. 1 seed in the upcoming tournament, amid the unpredictability in the Associated Press poll and conference standings. While a potential rematch in the SEC tournament and NCAA tournament looms, here are the key takeaways from this battle of titans.
ANOTHA ONE, THANK YOU!!
— South Carolina Women’s Basketball (@GamecockWBB) January 26, 2024
Reese’s Foul Alters Dynamics: Angel Reese’s fifth foul in the fourth quarter proved crucial as she exited the game after a strong defensive effort. Reese’s absence impacted LSU’s rebounding capabilities, allowing South Carolina to mount a comeback in the fourth quarter. Reese, a key asset alongside Aneesah Morrow, had contributed significantly to LSU’s rebounding dominance earlier in the game. The Tigers’ ability to control the boards, particularly on the offensive end, highlighted Reese’s importance. Despite the setback, LSU’s performance showcased their resilience and determination.
Depth Challenges for LSU: Reese’s foul-out also underscored LSU’s depth challenges, particularly in the absence of key players due to injury and roster changes. The limited rotation became apparent as four of five starters played extensive minutes in the first half. In contrast, South Carolina’s deeper bench, with nine players seeing action, provided an advantage. The Tigers’ depth could become a concern in tougher contests, emphasizing the need for a well-rounded roster to navigate challenging matchups.
South Carolina’s Clutch Factor: South Carolina’s ability to win close games was on display, reinforcing their reputation as a team that excels in pressure situations. Despite trailing in the first half, the Gamecocks maintained composure and executed critical plays down the stretch. The experience of the program, even with new faces in the starting lineup, played a pivotal role. Head coach Dawn Staley emphasized the team’s commitment to playing for the full 40 minutes, regardless of the score, showcasing their resilience in tight situations.
Perimeter Shooting Lifts South Carolina: South Carolina showcased their prowess from beyond the arc, a key factor in their ability to overcome deficits. Despite a somewhat subdued first half, the Gamecocks found success in perimeter shooting, where they lead the nation in 3-point percentage (43.5%). Te-Hina Paopao and Malaysia Fulwiley’s timely 3-pointers kept South Carolina within striking distance. Bree Hall’s clutch 3s in the final minutes proved decisive in securing the win. The Gamecocks’ proficiency from deep became a vital asset, especially against LSU’s strong defensive presence.
In conclusion, the South Carolina vs. LSU clash provided a riveting display of women’s college basketball, underscoring the resilience, depth, and strategic prowess of both teams. As the season progresses, these insights will shape the narrative of the teams’ quest for success in the upcoming tournaments.