The biggest game of the season thus far is happening in South Carolina Tuesday night when No. 1 South Carolina faces off against No. 2 Stanford. The two teams played each other in last year’s Final Four, with Stanford coming out victorious 66-65 on its way to the national championship.
Practice ... live ... play for that margin of error.— GamecockWBB (@GamecockWBB) December 21, 2021
Tipoff at 7 p.m. pic.twitter.com/WZhnvDpnhz
South Carolina has been the best team in college basketball all season long. The Gamecocks are undefeated, having won all eleven games they’ve played in. They are well-coached, thanks to the leadership of Dawn Stanley. And with star athletes like Aliyah Boston and Zia Cooke, they have the personnel to win it all.
The Gamecocks are a complete team, but things still run through Aliyah Boston. She’s averaging a double-double with 16.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. She’s also second on the team in minutes played, averaging 25.3 per game. You can’t completely stop Boston, but making her work for everything she earns will be the main objective for Stanford.
The biggest question mark for South Carolina is will Destanni Henderson play? She’s missed the last three games with a leg injury. She’s averaging 12.3 points and 27.8 minutes per game, so that kind of production would be crucial against this Stanford team.
At 8-2, Stanford has had a good season so far. The Cardinal have lost to No. 12 Texas and No. 18 South Florida but have beaten No. 6 Maryland, No. 7 Tennessee and No. 8 Indiana. Do they have enough to pull off the upset against South Carolina?
To do so, they’ll likely have to zig to the Gamecocks Zag. South Carolina is a great rebounding team and scores a lot from the paint. I think the only path to victory for Stanford is scoring from the perimeter with its guards. That means they’ll need a big game from junior guard Haley Jones and a hot shooting night from Hannah Jump. If they can manage that and not get obliterated on the boards, they’ll put themselves in a position to win late in the game.
No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks (11-0, 0-0 SEC) vs. No. 2 Stanford Cardinal (8-2, 0-0 PAC-12)
When: Tuesday, Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Colonial Life Center in Columbia, SC
How to watch: ESPN 2
Key to the matchup: South Carolina will be looking to feed the ball to Aliyah Boston early and often. The Gamecocks will be looking to dominate the boards and overwhelm Stanford defensively. For Stanford, the key will be to make the game all about its guards. The Cardinal need their guards to dominate the perimeter and have a good shooting night from three. They can not afford to have any scoring droughts. They’ll need to have a near perfect game and not lose the rebounding battle by a wide margin. If they can do all that, they’ll have a chance to win. If not, South Carolina will be looking at win No. 12 this season.