GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — Aliyah Boston had 27 points and 10 rebounds as No. 7 South Carolina pulled away in the third quarter to beat No. 16 Georgia 67-62 and win its second straight SEC Tournament title — and sixth in the past seven years.
It was a historic matchup that featured two Black head coaches in the title game for the first time in SEC history with South Carolina’s Dawn Staley and Georgia’s Joni Taylor.
The Gamecocks (22-4), twice the country’s No. 1 team this season, struggled down the stretch with three losses in their last seven games, including a defeat at No. 2 Texas A&M a week ago where they watched the Aggies cut down nets to celebrate an SEC regular-season title.
But South Carolina righted things in a big way at the SEC Tournament. It used big early runs to put away Alabama on Friday and No. 14 Tennessee on Saturday night to advance. This time, the Gamecocks broke open a tie game with a 9-0 run to close the third quarter.
The Bulldogs closed to 65-62 on Que Morrison’s 3-pointer with 14.4 seconds left. Boston then followed with a pair of foul shots and South Carolina held on for its 14th straight victory over Georgia.
They also continued a remarkable run through the SEC Tournament since 2015, going 18-1 over the past seven years. That mark includes eliminating Georgia from the event four times, in 2017, 2018, 2020 and this latest one.
Morrison had 20 points to lead Georgia.
Boston, who earned tournament MVP honors, finished with her third straight tournament double-double. She added four blocks.
Henderson had 18 points for South Carolina.
Georgia’s shooting touch and defense early kept South Carolina in check.
The Bulldogs found some hot shooting of their own — they made nine of 15 shots — for a 23-17 lead after one quarter.
But when Jenna Staiti picked up her second foul at the end of the first quarter, South Carolina found Boston down low. Boston scored eight of her 14 first-half points in the period as the Gamecocks erased Georgia’s deficit.
It looked the Bulldogs would hang on for a lead at the half before Cooke held for a final shot and drained a 3-pointer as time ran out to send the game to the break tied at 35-all.
Georgia reached its first tournament final since 2004 with a victory over No. 17 Kentucky on Friday and an upset of top-seeded and No. 2 Texas A&M where it rallied from five-points down in the second half.
THE BIG PICTURE
Georgia: The Bulldogs have experience and depth and should be a difficult match for any team in the NCAA Tournament. The one thing they’ll have to wait until next season to discover: A way to get past what’s become their nemesis in recent years in South Carolina.
South Carolina: It didn’t take long for the Gamecocks to assert their dominance once more on the SEC. Boston and Cooke are playing at high levels and, even if South Carolina misses too many layups and short jumpers for Staley’s liking, will be a threat for the national title in a few weeks.