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Showdown looms for South Carolina, LSU at SEC Tournament

AP Sports Writer

Another SEC showdown is looming at the league tournament this week between undefeated No. 1 South Carolina and one-loss, No. 4 LSU.

The teams met on Super Bowl Sunday in a highly anticipated game featuring two of the game’s biggest stars in reigning AP player of the year Aliyah Boston for the Gamecocks and the Tigers’ Angel Reese.

No. 1 South Carolina shut down Reese — it was her only game this season without double figures in both points and rebounds — in an 88-64 victory.

The tournament opens i Greenville, South Carolina, on Wednesday. The top four seeds in South Carolina (29-0), LSU (27-1), No. 3 Tennessee (21-10) and No. 4 Ole Miss (22-7) dont’ play until Friday. The semifinals will be Saturday with the championship and the NCAA’s automatic bid at stake on Sunday.

The February beatdown by South Carolina left LSU coach Kim Mulkey a bit humbled. “It’s South Carolina, in my opinion,” she said, “and everyone else.”

At the moment, Mulkey has a much more modest goal for tournament play in her second year at LSU.

“I’ve never won an SEC Tournament game as a coach,” said Mulkey, whose team lost its opener a season ago to eventual champion Kentucky. “So our goal is to win one more in the SEC Tournament that we’ve done since this staff as been here.”

The Gamecocks have their own motivation from a year ago. South Carolina was heavily favored to win its seventh tournament crown in eight seasons. Instead, Kentucky rallied from eight points down in the fourth quarter for a 64-62 victory.

The Gamecocks haven’t lost in 35 games since, including a run to the 2022 national title.

South Carolina leading scorer Zia Cooke says that defeat is in the past and there’s no reminders or rallying cry

“I think what happened last year is what happened last year,” she said. “We’ve moved on.”

Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley, whose team wrapped up its seventh regular-season SEC championship in the past 10 seasons, has seen her team step up to each challenge this year and doesn’t expect that to change.

“I know this team understands the path that’s in front of them,” Staley said. “They stay current with that so I can only feel good about what they’ve done.”


There are six other 20-win teams in the SEC this season in the Lady Vols, Rebels, Mississippi State (20-9), Alabama (20-9), Georgia (20-10) and Arkansas (20-11). That group is a combined 0-14 against South Carolina and LSU this season.


Like the tournament itself, it’s a two-player chase in South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston and LSU’s Angel Reese. Reese has been dominant as a sophomore transfer, leading the SEC in scoring (23.7 points a game) and rebounding (16) this season. But Reese was largely shut down in the lopsided loss to South Carolina as Boston had 14 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.


It would be an even bigger surprise if Kentucky won a second straight SEC tournament title. The Wildcats enter as the 14th and last seed after going 10-18 and 2-14 in SEC play. This team lost its centerpiece player, Rhyne Howard, to the WNBA and had 10 newcomers on its opening roster.


It can’t get much easier, at least logistically, this postseason for No. 1 South Carolina. The SEC Tournament is in the first of a three-year run in Greenville, about a two-hour drive from the Gamecocks’ campus. The first two rounds of the NCAAs will almost surely be on South Carolina’s home floor. Should the Gamecocks’ advance to Sweet 16 weekend, they’ll most likely return to Greenville for a chance to get to a third straight Final Four. That will require a flight to Dallas.


The network will locate its College GameDay program at the SEC Tournament site this Sunday. It’s the last of three stops the program made to women’s basketball games, going to UConn’s game with Tennessee in Knoxville on Jan. 26 before going to Iowa City for the Indiana-Iowa game this past Sunday.

___ AP women’s college basketball: and and

Article Topic Follows: AP National Sports

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