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No. 5 UConn women’s basketball dropped by No. 1 South Carolina, 70-52

The Huskies drop to 0-3 against the top three teams in the nation.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

For the third time this season, UConn women’s basketball proved no match for the nation’s elite, this time falling to the South Carolina Gamecocks 70-52.

UConn opened the game with its worst offensive quarter ever, managing just two points on a Megan Walker layup with 6:09 in the first period. It was the Huskies’ lowest point total in a quarter in program history, beating the previous mark of six points which they set earlier this season in the fourth quarter against Baylor. UConn went just 1-16 from the field and turned it over five times.

However, the Huskies remained within reach after one thanks to a strong effort from their defense, holding South Carolina to just 11 points itself. Despite the offense failing to show up in the opening quarter, UConn trailed by just nine after 10 minutes.

After the offenses were missing in action in the first quarter, both arrived for the second. The teams traded baskets over the first six possessions and neither side scored more than two baskets in a row. However, that meant the Huskies couldn’t do much to crack into the deficit.

The first half served as a microcosm of UConn’s season. When the offense is flowing, the defense can’t get stops. But when the defense is on, the offense can’t find the basket. With that, the Huskies went into the half trailing by 12.

But even that gap proved too insurmountable. South Carolina opened the second half with an 11-2 run that put the Gamecocks up 20. Again, the teams went back and forth on the scoreboard for much of the quarter which only played into South Carolina’s hand. While UConn sparked a 7-0 run at the end of the third, the Huskies still couldn’t pare down the deficit and trailed by 13 entering the final quarter after a Christyn Williams hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer on the run to end the third.

Over the final 10 minutes, Crystal Dangerfield did her best to will UConn to victory with seven of the team’s nine points in the fourth quarter. After a quick 5-0 run, the Huskies were within 12 before a South Carolina sank the dagger with an offensive rebound followed by a jumper from Tyasha Harris put the Gamecocks up 14 with 1:49 to play. UConn did not score again.

Dangerfield finished with 25 of the Huskies’ 52 points — 15 more than Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Megan Walker. Christyn Williams scored five points, Aubrey Griffin scored two and Anna Makurat went scoreless. UConn kept its bench short with just those six players seeing action.

The Huskies needed more from beyond the arc, hitting just 4-17 on the night while the Gamecocks made eight of their 22 attempts — far above their season average. Outside of Dangerfield, UConn made just one triple in 10 attempts. UConn also turned it over 15 times compared to South Carolina’s seven, many of which were unforced.

The first quarter ultimately proved to be the difference in the game. UConn couldn’t cut down the nine-point lead and only got outscored by four points over the 28 minutes from the second quarter on before South Carolina pulled away late. The Huskies just couldn’t get their offense and defense in sync at the same to in order to mount any serious comeback.

After the loss, UConn drops to 20-3 on the season with the losses coming to South Carolina, Baylor and Oregon — the consensus top three teams in the nation by a wide margin.

South Carolina is just the eighth program to beat UConn since 2008, joining Baylor, Louisville, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Oregon, Stanford and St. John’s. It is also the first time since the 2011-12 season that the Huskies have lost to three different teams in a season.

Now, UConn will return to AAC play until the NCAA tournament, beginning with a road trip to USF on Sunday at 2 p.m.