Geaux Gamecocks: South Carolina basketball escapes Baton Rouge with road win over LSU

South Carolina basketball escaped Baton Rouge with a tough road win over the LSU Tigers, despite not playing their best game.

South Carolina basketball wing Bree Hall
South Carolina basketball wing Bree Hall / Matthew Hinton-USA TODAY Sports
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The most highly-anticipated women's college basketball game of the season drew the first women's College GameDay of the year as the undisputed #1 team in America, the South Carolina Gamecocks, traveled to Baton Rouge to face the 9th-ranked LSU Tigers. South Carolina basketball dominated the only meeting last year, but the Bayou Bengals won the National Championship after USC dropped the ball against Iowa in the Final Four.

This year's game was one of utmost importance as the winner controlled their own destiny in the SEC standings, and as part of the We Back Pat initiative, the two most talented rosters in the sport met on the hardwood with a lot on the line.

In front of a raucous crowd, the game began with Kamilla Cardoso winning the opening tip, but Angel Reese stole an entry pass before failing to convert a coast-coast layup attempt. Bree Hall and Flau’jae Johnson opened the scoring, and after a held ball, Aneesah Morrow put the Tigers up 5-2 with a 3-pointer from the triple-threat position.

Some ugly basketball followed from South Carolina (including two more turnovers), but 7 points from Chloe Kitts kept her squad in the game as the score stood 11-12 in favor of the Bayou Bengals at the media timeout.

LSU picked up two more buckets from Morrow to bring their lead to 5. Despite the physical play, no fouls had been called until Angel Reese drew one on Sania Feagin, converting an and-one to go up by 8 points, 19-11. The Tigers’ run grew to 9-0 after a Mikaylah Williams jumper, but Raven Johnson stopped the bleeding with a coast-to-coast layup.

LSU put South Carolina basketball in an 11-point hole, which tied their biggest deficit of the year (@ North Carolina). Chloe Kitts scored again, and then a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Te-Hina Paopao made the score 24-18 in favor of LSU.

With the Gamecocks getting whipped on the offensive glass (LSU had 6 in the 1st period) and committing too many turnovers (USC gave the ball away 4 times), the 6-point deficit wasn’t terrible, but Coach Dawn Staley was not happy heading into the 2nd quarter.

After not shooting in the 1st period, Kamilla Cardoso took the first shot of the 2nd. She missed, however, and Angel Reese scored on a circus shot to put her team up 8. After a 1-2 trip to the line for Kitts, Morrow finally missed, but soft rebounding effort from Cardoso allowed Reese to grab another offensive board. She eventually scored on the extra possession, and Cardoso was sent to the bench.

Reese got away with an elbow to Kitts’ head and scored to put LSU up 11 once again. The two teams traded buckets and stops, and after a strange 10-second violation that led to the under-5 timeout, LSU led 34-25.

The horrible rebounding from the Gamecocks continued as back-to-back offensive rebounds gave the Tigers a 22-11 advantage on the glass.

5 straight points from MiLaysia Fulwiley cut the deficit to 6 points. Two misses from the line from Sania Feagin brought Carolina to 1-6 on the game, but 5 straight from Flau’jae Johnson pushed the lead back to 11. Kamilla Cardoso showed a little life with an and-one conversion in the final minute, and MiLaysia Fulwiley knocked down a buzzer-beater from outside to bring the score to 41-36 heading into the intermission.

The Gamecocks quickly cut the lead to 3 after the break with a Kamilla Cardoso bucket inside, but Aneesah Morrow answered a couple of possessions later with a made midrange shot. A newly active Cardoso grabbed an offensive rebound, drew a foul, and earned her team an extra possession that resulted in a Raven Johnson score. When Flau’jae Johnson turned it over with an obvious charge, an irate Kim Mulkey called timeout as the score stood 43-40.

In the first two minutes of the half, Carolina matched its entire 1st half offensive rebound total. The extra energy spread to the other parts of the Gamecocks’ efforts, and Chloe Kitts cut the lead to 1. The defense improved, as well, and Cardoso swatted an Angel Reese shot into the stands. Reese got her back with a block of her own, however, and LSU went up 5 after the All-American scored on the other end. 

The Tigers’ run 8-2 ended with a Cardoso make that made the score 46-51, but Te-Hina Paopao’s shooting struggles brought her to 1-5 from outside and 1-8 from the field.

The Gamecocks cut the lead to 1, but a hideous chuck at the basket from Last-Tear Poa somehow fell and put the home team back up by 3. Paopao's struggles caused her to pass up an open 3-pointer, and Dawn Staley's team didn't score again the rest of the period. Trailing 52-56, South Carolina basketball took a deficit into the 4th quarter for the first time this season.

A bad miss from Bree Hall squandered an easy scoring opportunity, but she redeemed herself with a nice block in the paint on the ensuing LSU possession. LSU led 57-52 after Mikaylah Williams made 1-2 foul shots, and Angel Reese picked up her 4th for inadvertently tripping Kamilla Cardoso after falling.

Paopao scored 5 straight, but an Aneesah Morrow bucket put her team back up by 4. A Bree Hall jumper made it a one-possession game, and an Ashlyn Watkins block got the ball back for USC where Paopao drew a 2-shot foul, sinking them both to tie the game 61-61. A great effort rebound from Bree Hall saved the ball from going out of bounds, and Kamilla Cardoso scored on a post touch to earn the Gamecocks their first lead since 2-0.

Hailey Van Lith made a jumper threw contact, and the three-point play gave the home-clad Tigers a very brief lead before Ashlyn Watkins scored on a baseline drive. Two possessions later, a bad turnover from Watkins was followed by a Mikaylah Williams 3-pointer. Another bad turnover from Carolina sent the game to a timeout.

Shortly after, Angel Reese fouled out on a silly foul under the basket, and Raven Johnson tied the game with the two ensuing free throws. After some sloppy basketball from both teams over the next minute, Kamilla Cardoso found Bree Hall on the wing, and the junior knocked down the 3-pointer to put her team up by 3, 70-67.

A cold-blooded 3-ball from Van Lith tied the game again, and with 1:37 left on the clock, the score was knotted at 70-70. Mulkey took LSU's final timeout, and Hall took advantage of the rest, knocking down another 3 with the fresh legs.

A miss from HVL saw Cardoso fouled on the rebound, and with 36 seconds left, Dawn Staley took a timeout. A tough Raven Johnson layup put the Gamecocks up 5, and another free throw from the point guard iced the game.

529. Final. 76. 533. South Carolina Basketball vs. LSU Tigers. 70