Aliyah Boston will be a game-time decision for the No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks’ Tuesday night game against the No. 15 UCLA Bruins (7 p.m. ET, SEC Network). She suffered a foot injury on Sunday; the appearance before that she notched career double-double No. 64, a mark that leads all active women’s college players.
Boston is nearly averaging a double-double with 11.8 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, averages that are dragged down by her six-point, four-rebound performance in just 14 minutes on Sunday. She actually is only averaging 22 minutes on the season because the team has been in so many blowouts, so those numbers are not really indicative of how good she’s played and it’s not a concern that they’re down from last year.
For South Carolina as a team, nothing has been down from last year. The Gamecocks already have a blowout win over No. 20 Maryland and a win over No. 2 Stanford, making it 16 wins in a row over ranked teams and seven wins in a row over Top 5 teams.
If Boston isn’t able to go, the team still has leading scorer Zia Cooke (13.8 points per game) and a balanced scoring attack behind her. Freshman Ashlyn Watkins, now famous for her dunk, and sophomore Bree Hall, who came up clutch against the Cardinal, are both coming off 14-point performances on Sunday and Kamilla Cardoso had 11 points and 14 rebounds. Those are the Gamecocks’ next three best scorers after Cooke and Boston. The top three minute-getters aside from Cooke and Boston, Brea Beal, Laeticia Amihere and Victaria Saxton, will also be available and will bring their signature defense.
So, whether Boston plays or not, facing South Carolina will be a huge challenge for the Bruins, who were last seen beating Jackson State by 12 on Friday. In their previous game before that, they defeated now-No. 24 Marquette in overtime to claim the Battle 4 Atlantis championship.
During the Battle 4 Atlantis, UCLA also upset then-No. 11 Tennessee, though we can’t be sure how big of a win that was, seeing as the Lady Volunteers are now out of the rankings. Against Marquette, Bruin star Charisma Osborne took a back seat to freshman Kiki Rice, who finished with 18 points and seven rebounds. Wake Forest transfer Gina Conti added 16 points and demonstrated the aggressiveness and leadership she brings to the table. Osborne dropped 23 points against the Lady Vols and leads the squad with 20.1 per contest.
Osborne is also averaging 7.1 rebounds and three assists, while Rice, the No. 2 Hoop Gurlz recruit, dishes out four assists per game to go along with her 11.3 points. It seems like that is going to be a lethal backcourt tandem and Rice is only going to get better as the season progresses. We’ll see if she grows up a lot before our eyes on the road against the defending champions Tuesday night.
UCLA is so much more than that tandem though. Against Marquette, you saw hustle plays from Emily Bessoir, Lina Sontag, Gabriela Jaquez and, especially, Camryn Brown, who averages just three points per game but starts and is fifth on the team in minutes per game.
The Bruins also sport a win over a South Dakota State team that is receiving votes. The Lady Vols are receiving votes as well, so UCLA’s 7-0 record is nothing to sneeze at. Time will tell if it is deserving of being ranked as high as No. 15, but it has the potential to play some quality basketball against South Carolina. Winning the game will be a whole other matter, however.
No. 15 UCLA Bruins (7-0, 0-0 Pac-12) vs. No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks (6-0, 0-0 SEC)
When: Tuesday, Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, SC
How to watch/listen: SEC Network/Gamecock Sports Network
Key to the matchup: South Carolina’s free throw shooting. The Gamecocks have large advantages in three key categories: scoring defense, field goal percentage defense and rebounding margin. Of course, they would have the advantage in those areas over anyone, except in rebound margin, where they trail only LSU. UCLA’s two advantages come in the form of more made threes per game and a far better free throw percentage: 76.9 to 65.9. The teams get to the free throw line with right around the same frequency. If the Gamecocks can step up and shoot better from the stripe, they can eliminate the Bruins’ only large advantage.