COLUMBIA, S.C. — Destanni Henderson had seven of her 11 points in a decisive third-quarter run as No. 1 South Carolina pulled away from Missouri 77-62 Thursday night for its 30th straight win against Southeastern Conference competition.
Zia Cooke shook off a poor start to finish with 15 points for the Gamecocks while Aliyah Boston had 11 points and 12 rebounds for her ninth double-double this season and 22nd of her college career.
It was a satisfying win for South Carolina (16-2, 11-0 SEC), which was beaten at No. 2 UConn on Monday night only hours after returning to No. 1.
But Missouri (7-8, 3-7) made it difficult, trailing just 45-44 midway through the third quarter before Henderson took over. She hit a jumper, and then another driving basket where she was fouled. After missing the free throw, South Carolina rebounded and Henderson was open for a 3-pointer and a 52-44 lead with 2:30 left in the period.
Missouri could not respond and lost for the fifth time in its past seven games and fourth in a row to South Carolina.
The Gamecocks, second in the SEC at 81 points a game, took awhile to crank up its attack after posting its second fewest points in a game this season
Missouri kept making shots the first 25 minutes while the Gamecocks struggled to find the basket.
The Tigers, who lead the SEC in field goal percentage, shot 14 of 25 (56 percent) in the first half in a 36-all game at the half.
South Carolina, meanwhile, went through stretches of poor shooting. It missed 12 of 14 shots toward the end of the first quarter and its final five in the second period after moving in front 36-31 late.
Lauren Hansen hit a 3-pointer and Hayley Frank added a basket in the final two minutes to head to the locker room tied.
The Tigers have had a habit of hanging close with the SEC’s top teams this season. They lost a pair of games to ranked Arkansas by a combined eight points. They’ve also had a four-point loss to No. 6 Texas A&M and a six-point defeat to No. 20 Kentucky.
Shug Dickson had 15 points to lead Missouri. LaDazhia Williams and Aijha Blackwell, who combine to average almost 29 points a game, were held to just 17 between them.
THE BIG PICTURE
Missouri: The Tigers came close once more against a ranked opponent, but didn’t have the speed or strength to keep up with South Carolina. Things don’t get easier as Missouri plays four ranked opponents in its final five regular season games.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have a tendency to start slow and go through stretches where even the simplest, closest shots seem to miss the mark. While they’re sure to drop from No. 1, they have a smart, savvy lineup that will have them contending for a national title.
Missouri returns home to face No. 24 Georgia on Sunday.
South Carolina hosts LSU on Sunday.