No. 1 South Carolina survived an upset scare with a 78-69 win against No. 11 Utah on Sunday. The Gamecocks have now won 43 straight games against non-top 10 opponents when they are ranked No. 1.
The game was a lot closer than the final score shows, as it was only a two-point game with under three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The biggest problem for the Gamecocks: Alissa Pili, who put together a masterful offensive performance against one of the nation's best defenses. Pili finished the day with a career-high 37 points and shot a blistering 15-of-22 from the field. The senior forward also had three steals and one block over her 29 minutes on the floor.
"Man, it was so hard. Our main goal was to stop Pili, but she gave up a 30-piece," South Carolina guard Te-Hina Paopao said after the game.
The Gamecocks' win took a true team effort. They had to shoot 55% from the field with four players reaching double figures. Kamilla Cardoso once again led the South Carolina offense with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Paopao added 15 points, while Chloe Kitts and MiLaysia Fulwiley contributed 11 points each.
The Utes had a slight 46-44 advantage in the paint, but South Carolina won the rebounding battle 37-28 and had 11 more second chance points than its opponent.
One of the biggest differences in this game was the Gamecocks' depth, as their bench was responsible for 26 points while Utah's mustered only two. The Utes have been dealing with health issues, though, and recently lost star guard Gianna Kneepkens. Kneepkens was giving Utah 17.8 points per game, but her team showed resilience Sunday and almost pulled off the upset without her. Senior guard Isabel Palmer has also been dealing with an injury, and it's unclear when she will return to Utah's lineup.
The Gamecocks (9-0) will aim to remain undefeated when they take on the Presbyterian Blue Hose next Saturday. The Utes (8-2) will return to the court against Southern Utah the same day.