A smart decision to foul Cameron Brink before she could pass to Ashten Prechtel for a three and a lane violation called on Fran Belibi on Brink’s second free throw opened the door for Destiny Littleton to make Tuesday night’s 1 v. 2 matchup between the South Carolina Gamecocks and Stanford Cardinal a two-possession game in favor of No. 1 South Carolina with free throws at 0.8 seconds remaining and thus seal a 65-61 victory for the Gamecocks at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, S.C.
Stanford, which led by as much as 18 in the contest, was down 63-60 and could have tied it with a made three but, with three seconds remaining, Zia Cooke fouled Brink, whose back was to the basket as she was inside the arc and in the process of tossing the ball to Prechtel in the nearby left corner.
Prior to that play, South Carolina had forced a jump ball while attempting to rebound a missed free throw by Littleton. The possession arrow favored the Gamecocks, allowing them to inbound the ball to Aliyah Boston, who was fouled and made one of her free throws to extend her team’s lead to 63-60. Without that extra effort to force the jump ball, South Carolina wouldn’t have been able to foul intentionally on Stanford’s ensuing possession.
An inside bucket from Boston (18 points, 11 rebounds, four steals, five blocks) with 1:05 remaining had given the Gamecocks a 61-60 lead. They had used a 10-0 run from 8:41 in the third to 6:22 in the third to cut their deficit to 45-38 and never trailed by double digits from that point on.
Point guard Destanni Henderson, playing in her first game back from a leg injury that kept her out for three games, scored inside to start the run and then threes came from Boston and Littleton before Henderson (17 points, seven assists) picked up one of her seven steals en route to a fast break layup.
Yo Destanni Henderson changes the entire game!!— Chelsea Gray (@cgray209) December 22, 2021
To the shock of the announcing crew of Ryan Ruocco and Rebecca Lobo, Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer did not call a timeout after that layup and her Cardinal were actually able to score the next basket to push their lead back to nine. However, a 9-0 South Carolina run from 3:40 in the third to 1:03 in the third gave the Gamecocks a one-point lead entering the fourth.
The run began with four-straight points from Victaria Saxton (seven points, 10 rebounds, two blocks) and actually became an 11-0 run in the fourth on another inside bucket from Boston. Brea Beal made the 3-pointer that gave the Gamecocks the lead.
Stanford lost the third quarter 22-7 one game after losing the third quarter 20-9 to No. 7 Tennessee in a 74-63 win.
The Cardinal took the lead back twice in the fourth, but never led by more than two in the frame. Lexie Hull led them with 17 points with 14 of those coming in the first quarter. She also had seven rebounds, while Belibi was good for 12 points and Haley Jones notched 11 points and three blocks. Prechtel finished with nine boards, four assists and five rejections.
South Carolina star shooting guard Zia Cooke was held to four points on 1-of-9 shooting from the field.
Turnovers were the the story in this one. South Carolina forced 20 of them and committed just seven, while winning the points off turnovers battle 26-6. Stanford outshot the Gamecocks from the field (42.9 percent to 35.6 percent) and from three (7-of-15 to 4-of-16). The Cardinal even outrebounded the board-dominant Gamecocks 40-38.
With the win, South Carolina avenged its one-point loss to Stanford in last year’s Final Four and remained unbeaten at 12-0 (0-0 SEC). The Cardinal fell to 8-3 (0-0 Pac-12).
The gap between the Gamecocks and the rest of the country continues to grow.