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Women's basketball: South Carolina rallies past LSU to stay perfect

Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Top-ranked South Carolina overcame an 11-point deficit and outscored LSU 24-14 in the fourth quarter to rally past the Tigers, extending a perfect 18-0 start to their 2023-24 women's basketball campaign.

Forward Chloe Kitts led the Gamecocks with 14 points in the victory Thursday night in Baton Rouge, La. Guard Raven Johnson and center Te-Hina Paopao chipped in 13 and 12 points, respectively. The Gamecocks outscored the Tigers 46-40 in the paint, 16-4 off the bench and 13-4 on fast breaks.

"It's basketball, you make adjustments," Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley told reporters. "I thought our players did a great job of making adjustments after the half.

"It basically just boiled down to just toughening up."

Tigers stars Aneesah Morrow and Angel Reese scored 16 and 15 points, respectively. The Tigers made 44.7% of their shots, compared to the Gamecocks' 47.6% clip.

The game was tight through the first five minutes. The Tigers then used a 12-2 run to take control and carried a 24-18 lead into the second quarter. Morrow scored 10 points over the first 10 minutes.

The Gamecocks outscored the Tigers 18-17 in the second, but still trailed 41-36 at halftime. They outscored the Tigers 16-15 in the third and started the fourth with a 9-2 run to take a 63-61 lead with 6:06 remaining. The Tigers went on to take back the lead twice.

Johnson tied the score for the Gamecocks with 4:02 remaining. Guard Bree Hall sank a 3-pointer about a minute later for a 70-67 lead, but Tigers guard Hailey Van Lith answered with a game-tying 3-pointer with 1:42 remaining.

Hall hit another 3-pointer with 1:14 remaining to put the Gamecocks ahead for the final time. Johnson then made a layup and a free throw to ice the victory.

Hall scored eight points over the final 10 minutes. Paopao chipped in seven in the fourth quarter.

"Once we settled in, it still was a dog fight," Staley said. "But at the same time, it was a game of runs. They made big plays. We made big plays. It was the team that made the last play was the one that was going to win this basketball game."

"That was a good basketball game," Tigers coach Kim Mulkey said. "There's a lot of talent on both sides. A possession here, maybe we would have won it. A possession there, maybe we would have won it. They made the plays to win it."

The Tigers, ranked No. 9 in the country, are just 2-2 over their last four games after an 18-0 start to the season. Their loss Thursday came the same day that Amazon announced The Money Game docuseries.

The Prime Video production provides an all-access pass to LSU athletics for the 2023-24 season, including profiles of Reese and fellow basketball star Flau-jae Johnson and the athletes' association with name, image and likeness (NIL) deals. About 2,000 athletes signed such deals as of October, according to LSU.

The Tigers will face Mississippi State (16-5) at 7 p.m. EST Monday in Mississippi State, Miss. The Gamecocks will host Vanderbilt (17-4) at 3 p.m. Sunday in Columbia, S.C.