COLUMBIA, S.C. -- No. 1 South Carolina is closing in on restoring its championship past. Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley wants her players focused on what's next this week, not what's looming next month.
South Carolina took another step in that direction with a 95-44 blowout of Vanderbilt on Monday night. Freshman Aliyah Boston had 12 points and 14 rebounds while backup LeLe Grissett had 14 points to lead the Gamecocks to their 19th straight win.
The victory moves South Carolina (25-1) to 12-0 in the Southeastern Conference. It has a two-game lead in the league standings in the chase for a regular-season title and No. 1 seed at the conference tournament next month.
“It's something that we want to do, obviously," Staley said. “And we're close to it.”
What's important now is for Staley's players to stay focused and energized when they face LSU on Thursday night.
It's like in tennis when a player gets to match point. “You can almost see players tense up," Staley said. “I just don't want that to be our team."
No chance if the Gamecocks continue playing like they against Vanderbilt (13-12, 3-9).
South Carolina took control with a 17-0 run to close the opening quarter, using relentless defense and a fast-paced transition offense to beat the Commodores for a 12th straight time.
“That's what we try and do," said Harris, a senior point guard who started on South Carolina's 2017 national champions.
The Gamecocks had won four SEC regular-season crowns and four league tournament titles from 2014-2018. Last year, though, South Carolina lost 10 games (its most in seven years) and needed to kick start its program.
They've found that in freshmen starters Boston, Zia Cooke and Brea Beal, who've combined to average 30 points a game.
“I want us to be who we are all season long throughout the remainder of our games," Staley said.
South Carolina's run happened quickly. After the Commodores (13-12, 3-9) hit four shots in a row to draw within 13-10 early on. Vanderbilt could not hold up once the Gamecocks cranked things up.
Harris had five points and Grissett four in South Carolina's big run By the time Henderson hit a short jumper in the final minute, the Gamecocks were up 30-10.
Vanderbilt missed its final eight shots of the quarter and committed four turnovers during South Carolina's run.
Commodores coach Stephanie White said her team stumbled when they let things slip like sprinting back down court or getting in the lane a step early on defense.
“Great team exploit you when you don't pay attention to details," White said.
It continued South Carolina's pattern of getting out fast and not looking back. The Gamecocks held No. 6 UConn to just two points in the opening period last Monday on the way to their first-ever victory over the predominant power program in women's college basketball.
On Jan. 30, South Carolina led Mississippi 32-2 at the half.
Once on top of the Commodores, the Gamecocks made sure to stay there.
It was the 11th double-double for the 6-foot-5 Boston, who leads South Carolina in scoring and rebounding average and in blocked shots. She also had two blocks.
Mairella Fasoula had 11 points to lead Vanderbilt.
THE BIG PICTURE
Vanderbilt: The Commodores have had their struggles this season in SEC play, but they've really struggled against South Carolina. They lost at home to the Gamecocks 93-57 last month before getting blown out on the road.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have shown a steadiness all season, seemingly unfazed by milestones and achievements. Following the 70-52 win over UConn last week, South Carolina throttled Auburn (79-53) and Vanderbilt its past two outings.
Vanderbilt played without its leading scorer in freshman Koi Love, who had started the past four games. Commodores coach White said Love was suspended due to an undisclosed violation of team rules.
There may be a point of contention on South Carolina -- rebounding. The Gamecocks' guards who played at least 16 minutes combined for 16 rebounds. Harris, who had three boards, said her taller teammates have had issues with it. “They get mad at us," Harris said with a smile. “They say we box them out and go get it."
Vanderbilt returns home to play Missouri on Thursday night.
South Carolina closes a four-game homestand against LSU on Thursday night.
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