Paopao scores 17 as top-ranked South Carolina cruises past Florida 89-66 in SEC opener for both


No. 1 South Carolina opens SEC play with road win at UF

Te-Hina Paopao scores 17 points, Raven Johnson adds 16 and the Gamecocks open conference play with an 89-66 victory against the Gators.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- — Coach Dawn Staley figured guard Te-Hina Paopao would eventually start shooting better. Staley expected it to happen weeks ago.

Paopao heated up for the first time this season and scored 17 points, Raven Johnson added 16 and top-ranked South Carolina opened Southeastern Conference play with an 89-66 drubbing of Florida on Thursday night.

Bree Hall added 15 points for the undefeated Gamecocks (13-0), who won for the 55th time in their last 56 games and extended their conference winning streak to 17.

Kamilla Cardoso chipped in 10 points and 15 rebounds for the visitors, who also got eight boards and six blocks from Ashlyn Watkins.

The Gators (9-4) lost their 16th straight in the series. This one was never close.

South Carolina led 21-6 early and was up 17 at the end of the first quarter thanks partly to Paopao, a transfer from Oregon, hitting all four shots from 3-point range.

“When she got one to go down, I think she was feeling it," Staley said. "I thought she was real aggressive in taking shots. We love for her to do that, and we needed it in a big way. She’s a big shot maker.

"Am I surprised? No. I knew at some point she was going to start shooting the ball better. Luckily for us, it was in a game and not practice.”

Leilani Correa kept Florida in the game in the second quarter — almost single-handedly, too. Correa scored 17 consecutive points for the Gators to start the frame, including back-to-back 3s that helped trim down a 17-point lead. She led the way with a season-high 28 points on 11 of 20 shooting.

“My team needed me,” Correa said.

Correa scored 17 of Florida’s 19 points in the second and even outscored the Gamecocks by one. She needed more help, but it never came.

Leading scorer Aliyah Matharu, who entered the game averaging 19 points, finished with 10. She missed 15 of her first 16 shots, including nine from 3-point range.

“I’ll be surprised if that ever happens again," Florida coach Kelly Rae Finley said.

South Carolina ended any thoughts of a comeback when it opened the second half with a 15-0 run.

“There's a reason that they're the No. 1 team in the country,” Finley said. "They’re good on both ends of the floor.”


South Carolina did nothing in this one to make anyone question its spot atop the AP women's college basketball poll.


South Carolina: The Gamecocks are still one of the best teams in the country, even without three-time All-American Aliyah Boston. She was the WNBA’s rookie of the year. They’re motivated by last year’s loss to Iowa in a national semifinal and look to be as close as possible to a lock to make it back — or beyond.

Florida: The Gators have a talented trio of senior starters in Matharu, Correa and Kyle. Freshman Laila Reynolds gives them another scorer. But they don’t have much else, which should pose problems against the SEC’s elite — like South Carolina. Nonetheless, it’s a core that should be able to get Florida back to the NCAA Tournament.


South Carolina: Hosts Mississippi State on Sunday.

Florida: Plays at Vanderbilt on Sunday.


AP women’s college basketball: and