COLUMBIA, S.C. — Aliyah Boston is trying to make her mark on a South Carolina program that’s had stellar post players like A’ja Wilson and Alaina Coates.
Boston now has a milestone all her own with the Gamecocks’ first-ever triple double in Southeastern Conference play. The 6-foot-5 sophomore finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks as No. 4 South Carolina defeated No. 22 Georgia 62-50 on Thursday night.
“She wants to make her own legacy at South Carolina,” coach Dawn Staley said. “I think she’s pretty special.”
Certainly, her play of late is special and every bit the equal to All-SEC first teamers Wilson and Coates.
She’s averaged 17 points, 12 boards and five blocks over her past six games and was dominant in leading the Gamecocks (11-1, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) to their 25th straight win over league competition.
Boston thought she came up a block shy of the milestone, returning in the fourth quarter after stats showed her with nine blocks.
Boston had subbed out in the fourth quarter when coach Dawn Staley told her, “You need to go get a block.”
“So I went back in and, of course, I didn’t get a block,” Boston said. “And I went, ‘Wow, there goes that.’ Afterwards, they said, ‘You still got it,” and I went, “Whoa.’”
A review of the footage found that Boston had blocked an Jenna Staiti shot that hadn’t been counted.
Team spokesperson Diana Koval confirmed the milestone, the program’s first-ever triple-double in SEC play.
“I’m not surprised,” Staley said. “That probably isn’t the last triple double she’ll have.”
Zia Cooke, South Carolina’s leading scorer, broke out of a scoring slump with 16 points as the Gamecocks won their 13th straight over the Lady Bulldogs (12-2, 4-2)
Boston had 26 points, 16 boards and six blocks this past Monday night as South Carolina rolled over No. 15 Arkansas 104-82.
Boston debuted last season with a triple double and collected her second one with a block of Mikayla Coombs with 1:35 left in the third quarter.
For Cooke, the team’s leading scorer, it was a welcome performance after shooting just 7 of 26 with a combined 25 points the past three games.
South Carolina came in playing well, hanging more than 100 points on its last two opponents in Vanderbilt (which has since opted out of the season) and the ranked Razorbacks. But Georgia, who leads the SEC in fewest points allowed, kept the Gamecocks off track early on.
South Carolina missed five of its first six shots and struggled to find open looks early on. Then Cooke made three straight shots and Boston had four consecutive points for a 22-10 lead.
Boston and Cooke, part of South Carolina’s No. 1 recruiting class two years ago, were at it again right before the half. Boston hit the game’s first 3-pointer and Cooke beat the buzzer on a short runner that sent the Gamecocks into the locker room up 30-18.
The 30 points were the fewest in a first half for the Gamecocks since they trailed No. 2 North Carolina State 21-20 on Dec. 3. They’d eventually lose 54-46, their only loss of the past two seasons.
Jenna Staiti led Georgia with 15 points.
Georgia coach Joni Taylor said the team’s season high 23 turnovers was a result of South Carolina’s sticky defense.
“Everybody talks about their firepower,” Taylor said. “But they’re one of the best defensive teams in the country.”
THE BIG PICTURE
Georgia: The Lady Bulldogs first trip to the Top 25 in two seasons is likely to be a short stay. Georgia was turnover prone with a season-high 23 and shot just 31 percent (19 of 62) against the defensive-minded Gamecocks. Georgia had its lowest scoring total this season.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have trampled the SEC the past two seasons and, with Boston performing at an SEC Player of the Year caliber, could continue its dominance over the league.
The Gamecocks, too, struggled to take care of the ball with a season high 20 turnovers. Where the team made up for it was on defense, limited Georgia to just seven points off those miscues. “It was great that we defended our turnovers,” Staley said.
Georgia’s Taylor said Boston arrived at South Carolina with the skills of a pro and has elevated her game the past two seasons. “I don’t like playing against her, but she’s fun to watch,” Taylor said.
Georgia plays No. 15 Arkansas at home Monday night.
South Carolina faces LSU on Sunday.