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UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — South Carolina faced another challenge from a ranked team on Sunday and the No. 1 Gamecocks remained undefeated.
Kamilla Cardoso scored 17 points and Te-Hina Paopao added 15 to help the Gamecocks hold off No. 11 Utah 78-69 at the Hall of Fame Women’s Showcase.
Freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley and sophomore Chloe Kitts each added 11 for South Carolina (9-0), which has beaten four ranked opponents this season.
“We can only get better,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “That's the thing. This is the worst we're going to be and we're just in December.”
Alissa Pili made 15 of her 23 shots from the floor and finished with 37 points for Utah (8-2), getting the better of her individual matchups with the 6-foot-7 Cardoso and South Carolina's other front-court players.
“I just went out there and did my thing,” the 6-2 forward said. “Let the game come to me. It's better when I don't think about it, because it just comes to me.”
South Carolina led for all but 43 seconds during the game, but only was up seven points at the half and five after three quarters.
Pili helped Utah cut the lead to two points on several occasions, but South Carolina always responded with a run.
It was still a five-point lead with 3 1/2 minutes left when Pili hit a fall-away in the lane over Cardoso to make it 69-65. A layup by Dasia Young the next time down the floor cut the lead to 69-67.
But Utah could not get over the hump and South Carolina scored nine of the game's final 11 points.
Pili had 21 first-half points, but picked up her third foul on an offensive screen with just under five minutes to play in the half. She did not have another one in the game.
Fulwiley hit all three of her first half shots and her 3-pointer sent the Gamecocks into the half with a 41-34 lead.
Utah had won six in a row since falling by seven points to Baylor on Nov. 14.
Utah: The Utes were playing their second game without junior guard Gianna Kneepkens, who was averaging over 17 points a game before breaking her right foot against BYU last weekend. She is out for the season.
“As coaches, we've got to figure it out and we're still figuring it out,” said Utah coach Lynne Roberts. “We haven't had much time and to play against a team like South Carolina, who is so good defensively, that's hard.”
South Carolina: The Gamecocks came in giving up just 50 points per game and held Utah 27 points under its season average.
SHE SAID IT
Dawn Staley on being unable to stop Pili.
“I'd much rather get the win and have Pili score 37 on us, then her score 37 with the win. Now, that's a little bit hard to swallow. But, utmost respect for Pili. I mean, Utah, I hope we don't see them in the tournament and whoever does get to see them, good luck to you."
Utah visits Southern Utah on Saturday.
South Carolina hosts Presbyterian on Saturday.
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AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball