Recap: No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks needed boost from Bree Hall

Something had to give when the No. 2 Stanford Cardinal hosted the No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks Sunday afternoon at Maples Pavilion in Stanford, California. Either the Cardinal would defeat a No. 1 team as the No. 2 team for the first time ever or the Gamecocks would snap Stanford’s three-game winning streak against No. 1s at Maples.

A clutch three from 2021’s No. 14 Hoop Gurlz recruit proved to be the winning basket as the latter occurred.

It’s no secret that South Carolina’s amazing freshman class from 2021 didn’t contribute very much to the team’s 2022 national championship run. But Bree Hall reminded everyone just how talented she is with the trey at 41 seconds remaining in overtime that made it 73-69 in an eventual 76-71 victory. Hall was 2-of-3 from distance on the afternoon and finished with 12 points.

Aliyah Boston added a double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds; Cameron Brink’s 25 points and four blocks for Stanford were not quite enough. The Cardinal (5-1, 0-0 Pac-12) blew the 10-point lead they had entering the fourth and a six-point lead with 2:04 remaining in regulation.

With 12.5 seconds left in the fourth, the Gamecocks (4-0, 0-0 SEC) were down two and Boston didn’t want to do anything too complicated. She backed down from pretty far out, wanting to do it all herself, but was double-teamed and blocked by Ashten Prechtel. With six seconds left on the clock, South Carolina still had the ball. After an inbound, Boston eventually got a friendly roll on an inside look that tied the game and sent it to overtime. This after Stanford star Haley Jones went 1-of-2 at the free throw line on the previous possession.

The basketball Boston made to force OT was eerily similar to the bunny she missed in South Carolina’s Final Four loss to Stanford in 2021, after which Jones embraced Boston, as the two are close friends. On Sunday, it was Jones missing an opportunity to win it for her team.

Brink was phenomenal in the first quarter, but fouled out with 3:01 left in overtime on the same possession she got her fourth block. So she had her highs and lows on defence. After she fouled out, Laeticia Amihere made two free throws to give South Carolina its first lead since the first quarter. The teams exchanged layups on the next four possessions, with Boston scoring both of South Carolina’s to leave the score at 70-69 Gamecocks.

Hall then made her key triple before Boston fouled out at 28.8 seconds remaining. Kiki Iriafen went 2-of-2 at the line to cut it to 73-71, but, with the score still at that mark and under four seconds remaining, she called a timeout Stanford didn’t have, resulting in a technical foul and two Aunt Cooke free throws that iced the win for South Carolina.

Brea Beal made a huge three at 14 seconds remaining in regulation to cut the Gamecock’s deficit to 60-59.

Though they led by six with 2:04 left in the fourth, things started to fall apart for the Cardinal early in the frame. Hall opened the period’s scoring with a layup and then Brink, known for getting herself into foul trouble, picked up her fourth foul and had to leave a game she was having a big impact on. She was out from 9:12 in the fourth to 5:56 in the fourth, a timeframe during which the Gamecocks went on a 4-0 run to cut it to 54-50. Jones then had her shot blocked three times before South Carolina scored again to cut it to 54-52.

Stanford led 35-31 at the half and 50-44 with 2:25 to go before the fourth. Back-to-back blocks by Ashten Prechtel, plus a reverse layup from Jones and a layup from Iriafen gave the Cardinal a 10-point cushion entering the final frame.

South Carolina went on a 9-0 run to cut it to 29-28 with 1:55 to go before the half. Hall’s classmate Raven Johnson (the No. 2 Hoop Gurlz recruit from 2021) scored the final four points of the run on a mid-range make followed by an offensive rebound turned difficult layup made while falling down.

Brink had 12 points in the first quarter on 5-of-7 shooting from the field and 1-of-1 shooting from downtown.

Down 6-5 early, Stanford went on a 7-0 run, which turned into a 16-3 run and gave it a 21-9 lead. It started with back-to-back layups from Jones. Brink then made a straightaway three to cap the 7-0 stretch.

Brink was playing with agility and was in a good flow. With 2:51 remaining in the first she made a layup off a backdoor cut to make it 16-9 Stanford. It came on a beautiful passage from Jones. Stanford does a lot of backdoor cuts; on this one there was not a lot of space to get it to Brink, as she was just a step ahead of her defender, Kamilla Cardoso. But Jones made the perfect pass and Brink made the perfect finish, plus a free throw after being fouled to make it 17-9.

To add to her great start, Brink sunk a deep two to make it 21-9; Stanford led 21-11 after one.

After Brink got a steal and eventually dished a nice pass to Lauren Betts for a layup in transition that made it 25-15, ESPN color commentator Rebecca Lobo said she had never seen Brink play better.

Cooke finished with 13 points and four assists, while Jones had 11 points, nine boards and six helpers in defeat.

Stanford turned the ball over 22 times and only forced 11 turnovers. It accomplished the impressive feat of outrebounding the Gamecocks though, 47-41.

South Carolina won bench points 34-9. It led for just three minutes and 26 seconds.

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