Women’s Wednesday: Aliyah Boston and the team that’s taken the country by storm

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“I just love this team.”

While this was how Aliyah Boston ended our interview, it is clearly also a common sentiment for how the freshman feels about her entire first season at South Carolina. 

The Gamecocks have had incredible success this season—they are the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, boast a 22-1 record, and have beaten three top-5 teams. However, that all seemed to come second to the caring and supportive dynamic between the players themselves for Boston.

The 6-foot-5 forward is a dominant presence on the court—leading the team in scoring (13.3 ppg), rebounds (9.1 rpg), and blocks (67).

At the same time, she also knows how to balance that with listening to the more experienced players on the team.

“It’s about knowing what I have to do,” she explained. “I know I need to be aggressive, aggressive in the post. I’m trying to do my part, rebounding, blocking shots, making myself known and being a dominant presence.”

While the young forward has seen a great deal of personal success this season, she credits all that she has been able to accomplish to her teammates. 

“Everything I’ve done this season is because of my teammates,” Boston stated. “I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in today. They’ve done a great job of encouraging me, and being there for me. I’ve gotten down on myself because of shots I’ve made or things I don’t think I’ve done well. And they’re always there to pick me back up.”

Boston received a series of accolades in high school, being named Massachusetts Player of the Year by USA Today and  to the Naismith All-America Second Team in 2019—just to name a couple.

Yet, this is the most fun she has had playing basketball. 

“I think this year, Ty [Tyasha Harris] and Kiki [Mikiah Herbert Harrigan] have done a great job of leading us, being the only seniors on the team,” Boston said. “They’re making it fun every day to come to practice and play games.

“Their attitudes, they’re always smiling, they’re always happy,” Boston explained, when asked what the seniors did to make the team fun. “And we’re all competitive.. that’s the best part about it, that everyone’s competing and trying to make each other better.”

Competitive is an understatement when talking about this Gamecocks team, as they come off one of the biggest wins in program history. 

South Carolina beat UConn for the first time ever on Monday night in a 70-52 rout of one of the most storied women’s basketball programs. 

“It was great, I thought we played great as a team,” Boston said, excitedly. “And the atmosphere, the crowd was behind us the entire time.”

Before the game, head coach Dawn Staley and Harris had an important message for the team, having faced UConn in the past.

“Ty [Harris], before the game, told us to stay focused and play hard,” Boston recounted. “And Staley told us as we were prepping to think about it as another game and to not get too ahead of ourselves.”

The Gamecocks led from start to finish, securing a dominant win over the Huskies after eight unsuccessful past attempts. 

Harris had a team-high 19 points and 11 assists, notching her first double-double of the season while not turning the ball over once.

When asked about what the locker room was like after the game, Boston laughed and said, “It was exciting! We were dancing, we were singing. Lots of smiles going around. It was fun.”

South Carolina has six games left in the regular season, and just two against ranked teams. It’s evident the players are hungry to bring their program its second NCAA national championship in four seasons.

“[The win over UConn] definitely boosted our confidence but we just have to stay focused because we still have a lot of games left. We have to stay focused and keep working hard.”

WEDNESDAY’S NEWS AND NOTES

– In one of the biggest matchups of the season, South Carolina beat UConn for the first time ever in a 70-52 victory on Monday night.

Crystal Dangerfield’s whopping 28 points was not enough to give UConn the spark it needed, while senior point guard Tyasha Harris led the way for South Carolina with 19 points. 

– Louisville suffered a pair of upsets, first to then-No. 17 Florida state on Thursday and then to an unranked Syracuse team on Sunday. Formerly the fifth ranked team, Louisville has dropped in the rankings to No. 9, while the Seminoles have moved up to the No. 14 spot.

The Cardinals—who hadn’t lost back-to-back games since February 2017—will face another tough road test when they face off against the No. 4 Wolfpack on Thursday. 

– Then-No. 10 UCLA also pulled off the upset over then-No. 6 Stanford, giving the Bruins a huge boost in the most recent AP Poll as they rose to No. 7 and the Cardinal dropped to No. 8. 

– No. 12 Arizona took down then-No. 9 Oregon State in 65-58 overtime win, which cause the Beavers to drop outside of the top-10 rankings to No. 11. 

– Arkansas made history on Sunday in its 103-85 defeat of Kentucky, marking the most points the Razorbacks have ever scored against an SEC opponent and beating the Wildcats for the first time since 2011. Arkansas went from No. 25 to No. 23 and Kentucky dropped from No. 15 to No. 18.

– N.C. State has won eight-straight games, causing them to soar in the NCAA’s Power 10 rankings from eighth to fourth. The upcoming matchup against Louisville will have major NCAA Tournament seeding implications for the ACC. 

– After beating two ranked teams in a row and coming back from a double-digit deficit in the second half against Texas A&M, Mississippi State rose to No. 7 in Power 10.

– Maryland ranks No. 10 in both the AP Poll and the NCAA’s Power 10 after a three-win week increased its winning streak to nine in a row. A win against Iowa on Thursday would put the Terps on top of the Big Ten.

– With the season at midway point, the Atlanta Tipoff club has released a list of the 30 players named to the Naismith Trophy women’s basketball Player of the Year midseason team. The list will be cut to 10 on March 3, and the winner will be announced April 4. 

Play of the Week: Myah Taylor made big-time plays in Mississippi State’s comeback win over Texas A&M, including this sweet pass to Jessika Carter under the basket:

Player of the Week: Shocker, Sabrina Ionescu secures her 24th career triple-double with a 15-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist performance against Arizona.