South Carolina Basketball: Gamecocks win big over rival Kentucky Wildcats to remain country's only undefeated team

South Carolina basketball is the only undefeated team in women's college basketball, and a huge win over Kentucky moved the Gamecocks to 16-0 (4-0).

South Carolina basketball guard Te-Hina Paopao dribbling behind a screen from forward Chloe Kitts.
South Carolina basketball guard Te-Hina Paopao dribbling behind a screen from forward Chloe Kitts. / Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
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South Carolina basketball coach Dawn Staley has destroyed the narrative that surrounded her team this offseason. The Gamecocks certainly are not in a "rebuilding year." No, just as they were last season, they are the best team in women's college basketball. They showed it against the Kentucky Wildcats on Monday night.

The Gamecocks won the opening tip, and Te-Hina Paopao made the first bucket of the game on a short jumper. Kentucky answered, but then Kamilla Cardoso went to work.

In just the first 5 minutes of game action, Cardoso put up 4 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 blocks. When the media timeout cooled her scalding start, the Gamecocks were up 12-6 over the Wildcats.

A Maddie Scherr step-back 3-pointer cut the lead to one possession, and an Eniya Russel (former Gamecock) bucket cut the lead to 1. The Colonial Life Arena crowd was quiet, but the calm was short-lived as MiLaysia Fulwiley hit a 3-pointer, and Ashlyn Watkins threw down her second career dunk to make the score 17-11.

The 1st quarter sputtered to the finish line, however, as the two teams struggled to make shots to finish the period. Carolina carried a small lead into the 2nd quarter, 17-13.

The 2nd started with more sloppy offense from the two SEC rivals. A Tessa Johnson perimeter jumper opened the scoring, and then MiLaysia Fulwiley converted a 4-point play to electrify the crowd and put her team up by 11 points. The dynamic freshman then hit another deep 3-pointer (her third of the game) to move the score to 27-13.

However, a few possessions later, she threw the ball away with a bad turnover, the team’s 7th in the game’s first 14 minutes. The Gamecocks held Kentucky scoreless for the first five minutes of the 2nd quarter. The 14-0 run ended with a Saniah Tyler 3-pointer, but the Gamecocks answered with 7 straight points, including Tessa Johnson’s second deep ball.

Chloe Kitts scored through contact to put Carolina up 42-18, and after Kentucky’s Saniah Tyler made a really deep 3-pointer, Johnson answered with her third make from outside. The half ended with South Carolina basketball up comfortably 46-21.

After the halftime break, Kentucky’s Emma King hit the first shot of the half, but Te-Hina Paopao responded with her first 3-pointer of the game. The long ball started what became a 12-0 run to go ahead 58-23. Part of that big run included Kamilla Cardoso reaching a double-double in the early minutes of the 2nd half. It was her 9th game with double-digit output in both scoring and rebounding.

Kyra Elzy’s team surrendered another run to the Gamecocks before the 3rd quarter ended. This one was also 10-0 but was ended when Maddie Scherr hit two free throws.

When the 3rd period mercifully came to a close, South Carolina basketball led 79-32 after outscoring Kentucky 62-19 in the middle two periods.

The 4th quarter was more of the same as Dawn Staley's team emptied the bench but still expanded their lead. Kentucky couldn't do anything against the Gamecock reserves (just like they couldn't the rest of the game), and they didn't score over the game's final 5 minutes. Dawn Staley called off the dogs, and the final score ended with the Gamecocks ahead 98-36.

528. South Carolina Basketball vs. Kentucky Wildcats. 98. 533. Final. 36