DURHAM, N.C. (AP)When South Carolina is at its best, the top-ranked Gamecocks use their length and size to overwhelm opponents with withering and relentless efforts on the glass.
The formula is working against everybody so far, even the rest of the nation’s top teams.
Aliyah Boston had 19 points, 14 boards and four blocks in the Gamecocks’ latest rebound-just-about-everything performance to beat No. 15 Duke 55-46 on Wednesday night, marking their fifth win against a top-15 opponent.
South Carolina (11-0) has outrebounded those five teams by an average of 15.6 per game, including finishing plus-13 on the offensive glass in each of the past three against No. 7 UConn, No. 9 Maryland and now the Blue Devils.
”It’s a fabric of who we are,” coach Dawn Staley said. ”We’ve missed a lot of shots, too, so I think we’re well aware of that. We set ourselves up to rebound the ball.
”We’ve got length. We’ve got athleticism. We’ve got will. We’ve got grit. That particular area is where we create separation and hopefully it continues throughout the rest of the season.”
South Carolina finished with a 44-26 rebounding advantage that included 19-6 on the offensive glass, leading to a 17-4 edge in second-chance points. That helped offset 35% shooting against Duke’s active zone that collapsed anytime the ball reached the paint.
”I thought we had pretty good first-shot defense tonight by and large, across the game,” Duke coach Kara Lawson said. ”It was offensive rebounds and the second chances that proved to be just too much.
”Obviously, their relentless approach to the glass on the offensive end gave us a lot of problems.”
Shayeann Day-Wilson scored 17 points to lead the Blue Devils. The defense made South Carolina work, but the offense struggled to get going.
Duke fell behind 17-3 and trailed by as many as 16 before twice getting as close as seven, the last at 53-46 on a four-point play from Day-Wilson with 19.1 seconds left.
Duke shot just 29% in the first half, including 2 for 12 from 3-point range, and finished the game at 34%. In addition, the teamwide rebounding effort that Lawson had hoped for didn’t materialize until after South Carolina went up big.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks keep winning through a demanding schedule. They opened the season by winning at current No. 2 North Carolina State. They beat then-No. 9 Oregon in the inaugural women’s Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas, then took down UConn in a 1-vs-2 title matchup there – the Huskies managed just one fourth-quarter field goal in that one – before beating Maryland last weekend. Now, Staley’s bunch can add another road win to the list.
Duke: The Blue Devils were enjoying their best start since opening 10-0 in 2013-14. The stretch included a win against then-No. 9 Iowa and preseason AP All-American Caitlin Clark two weeks ago here, earning Lawson her first victory over a ranked opponent. This was a taller order – literally – that became even tougher as the smaller Blue Devils struggled to knock down early shots. Duke fell to 3-11 against No. 1-ranked teams, losing for the sixth straight time since beating Maryland in January 2007.
Duke trimmed a 16-point deficit to 42-35 early in the fourth period, but South Carolina responded by scoring on five straight possessions to stretch the margin back out to 15.
Three of those baskets came inside from the 6-foot-5 Boston, a preseason Associated Press All-American. She also had a key steal during that stretch.
”I just knew that when I caught the ball, I had to read the defense and be dominant, like Coach tells me,” Boston said.
STILL NO HENDERSON
South Carolina played a third straight game without injured point guard Destanni Henderson, who is day-to-day with a leg issue.
The 6-4 Laeticia Amihere (10 points, eight rebounds) led that replacement effort, towering over the 5-6 Day-Wilson and 5-8 Vanessa de Jesus in several matchups on the perimeter.
Elizabeth Balogun hit a 3-pointer on the first possession, but Duke then missed 10 straight shots in an eight-minute scoreless streak as South Carolina opened its big lead.
”I did think we got great looks in that first quarter,” Lawson said. ”We just didn’t knock them down.”
South Carolina: The Gamecocks continue their demanding nonconference schedule by hosting third-ranked and reigning national champion Stanford on Tuesday.
Duke: The Blue Devils visit Miami on Sunday in their Atlantic Coast Conference opener.
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at https://twitter.com/aaronbeardap
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