COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Aliyah Boston had 25 points and 11 rebounds, and Zia Cooke added 12 points as No. 1 South Carolina completed a perfect Southeastern Conference season with a 73-63 victory over Georgia on Sunday.
Boston and Cooke, part of “The Freshies” top-ranked 2019 recruiting class, celebrated their Senior Day with pre-game tears, then followed with another fabulous showing as the Gamecocks (29-0, 16-0) won their 35th straight and their seventh SEC title in the past 10 seasons.
Kamilla Cardoso, the Gamecocks’ 6-foot-7 reserve, also had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Boston had her 78th career game with double figure points and boards.
South Carolina heads to next week’s SEC Tournament — only a two-hour drive from campus in Greenville — as heavy favorites to recapture the crown that eluded them a year ago.
Georgia (20-10, 9-7) kept things uncomfortably close into the second quarter before the Gamecocks pulled away for their 17th straight victory in the series.
Georgia frustrated South Carolina nearly two months ago, holding Boston to four points and five boards in a 68-51 loss on Jan. 2.
The Bulldogs defense was at it again, this time limiting just about every other Gamecock besides Boston to stay within arms length of the defending national champions. Diamond Battles’ basket with 5:58 to go before the half tied things at 25.
South Carolina dialed up its own defense for a 10-2 run the rest of the half to take control. The Gamecocks forced three turnovers and Georgia missed its five attempts during the four-minute span.
Cooke opened the surge with a driving bucket and closed it with a three as the Gamecocks lead 35-27 at the break.
South Carolina used its dominating height advantage — Cardoso scored all her points the final 20 minutes — to maintain a double-figure lead for much of the second half.
Georgia came in with a five-game win streak, but fell to 0-4 this season against ranked opponents. Battles led the Bulldogs with 20 points.
Georgia: The Bulldogs had no offensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes against South Carolina, which is second nationally in grabbing its opponents misses with more than 31 a game this season. Georgia entered this game fifth in SEC offensive rebounding per game at 13.3.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks were stunned by Kentucky in last year’s SEC Tournament finals. But it’s hard to imagine South Carolina’s versatile, talented roster letting up after the way they’ve handled the challenges of No. 1 and remaining undefeated so far.
Georgia starts SEC Tournament play on Thursday.
South Carolina, the top seed, begins play in Friday’s quarterfinals.
AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25