COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Aliyah Boston is not sure she's doing anything special, other than helping No. 1 South Carolina win. She might be the only one who sees it that way.
“I think the crowd is double-double watching,” Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley said with a laugh.
Boston finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds for her 13th straight double-double, and No. 1 South Carolina defeated No. 24 Mississippi 69-40 on Thursday night.
The Gamecocks (19-1, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) were scheduled for their yearly contest with No. 10 UConn. But with South Carolina a game behind SEC leader Tennessee, Staley called off the non-conference game to face the Rebels (17-3, 5-2) in a contest postponed due to COVID-19 earlier this month.
Staley got just what she needed from her team, especially her 6-foot-5 All-American. Boston reached 20 points for the first time in 11 games and came out on top in the showdown with Rebels star Shakira Austin.
The double-double streak is the already the longest in South Carolina history, with even WNBA MVP A'ja Wilson, attending the game, in awe of Boston's play.
“She's just killing it in her own fashion,” Wilson said.
For South Carolina's junior star, she believes she's only doing what's necessary to win.
“I kind of push it aside,” Boston said of the streak. “If it happens, it happens. If I focus on one thing it won't happen, so I just focus on winning.”
Boston had 15 points and four boards by the half. She was sitting on nine rebounds entering the final quarter when she grabbed Lashonda Monk's missed layup for No. 10 to continue a streak that began Nov. 29 in a win over North Carolina A&T.
Boston was in the thick of things, as usual, with a couple of early baskets including a strong drive from the left side as the Gamecocks went up 12-4. They pushed the edge to 33-17 three minutes before the half as Boston set up down low, caught a slick feed from Victaria Saxton and powered through a double-team for a basket and a three-point play.
In the Austin-Boston showdown, it was Boston in a runaway. Austin, also 6-5, struggled to find space to shoot much of the game as the Rebels lost their 14th straight to South Carolina.
The Ole Miss senior led her team with 15 points on 5-of-18 shooting.
The Rebels shot just 27.6 percent, a season low, and were outrebounded 47-33.
“It was embarrassing to say the least,” Ole Miss coach Yolett McPhee-McCain said.
THE BIG PICTURE
Mississippi: The Rebels, who got ranked this week for the first time since 2007, have shown they can play with just about everyone in the SEC — except for the top two teams in South Carolina and Tennessee, which are their only two league losses so far. Stay the course the next month and Ole Miss can still achieve a top-four seed in the SEC Tournament come March.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have locked down their past two opponents, holding Vanderbilt and Ole Miss to season lows in points. Their speed, size and relentless play on defense will likely keep them winning in the league heading up to a Feb. 20 home showdown with No. 4 Tennessee. “I think we're more locked in on the details,” Staley said.
Mississippi hadn't been ranked in 15 years, yet McPhee-McCain did not believe the attention led to a flat effort at South Carolina. Her team has responded in the past, following up their opening loss to Belmont with 13 straight wins and taking four in a row after falling to Tennessee earlier this month. “If us getting whooped on national television is going to get us four more wins, I'll take that,” she said.
Staley said her reserves are finally picking things up and that's led to increased opportunities off the bench. Freshman Saniya Rivers played nearly 20 minutes and was a burst of energy. LeLe Grissett was in for 18 minutes while Laeticia Amihere had eight points and three boards in 14 minutes. Their development, Staley said, is necessary for South Carolina to fulfill its championship dreams.
Mississippi returns home to play No. 15 Georgia on Sunday.
South Carolina heads to Florida on Sunday.
More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25