LSU-South Carolina Prediction – Who Will Win the SEC Showdown?

LSU-South Carolina Prediction – Who Will Win the SEC Showdown?

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  • February 11, 2023
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9:30 a.m. ET

MA Voepel

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MA Voepel

ESPN.comM.A. Voepel covers the WNBA, women’s collegiate basketball and other collegiate sports for espnW. Voepel began covering women’s basketball in 1984 and has been with ESPN since 1996.

Charlie Cream

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Charlie Cream

ESPN.comCharlie Creme projects the women’s NCAA tournament for

After this weekend, only one undefeated team will remain in Division I college basketball. But will it be No. 1 South Carolina or No. 3 be LSU? The Gamecocks (24-0) and Tigers (23-0) meet Sunday (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App) at a sold-out Colonial Life Arena in South Carolina in one of the most anticipated games of the women’s basketball season . Both teams are 11-0 in the SEC.

The Gamecocks are the defending champions and are on a 30-game winning streak. They picked up a win over UConn last Sunday and a win over Auburn on Thursday.

LSU walked a tightrope last week with three narrow wins, including one in overtime. But the Tigers are still undefeated and hoping for their first win against the Gamecocks since 2012. LSU leads the series 22-17, but South Carolina has won the last 13 straight.

It’s also a great individual duel when Aliyah Boston, a senior from South Carolina, and Angel Reese, a sophomore, go head-to-head. Along with Iowa guard Caitlin Clark, they are considered the front-runners for the National Player of the Year award.

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Reese has had a double-double in every Tigers game this season, with 23 straight. That’s four behind Boston’s 27 straight, a record set last season for the longest double-double streak by an SEC player. Boston has 76 double-doubles, the third in SEC history behind Sylvia Fowles’ 86 from 2004-2008, the former LSU star.

South Carolina has won or drawn the SEC regular-season championship in six of the last nine seasons under coach Dawn Staley. LSU, which last won the regular-season title in 2008, finished second in the SEC last year in coach Kim Mulkey’s inaugural season with the Tigers.

On Sunday, one will emerge as a favorite to the 2023 SEC regular-season title. We break up the game and predict the winner.

How will Boston and Reese fit together? Will Reese keep her double-double streak intact?

Creme: The star is already shining brightly on Reese, but a big game and a win on Sunday would be the moment. This will also be their biggest challenge. Given LSU’s weak non-conference schedule for the first half of the season, the veteran 6-foot-3 Reese was easily the most physically imposing and gifted player on the court. The SEC season was a step up in opponent size and strength, and playing Big Ten teams in Maryland last season meant Reese played against physical teams. South Carolina, and Boston in particular, poses a whole different challenge. Reese should still get her numbers, but they’ll be harder to come by. As is often the case with Boston, she can give way early on, but by the end of the game she tends to have the upper hand. I suspect she will wear Reese down in the same way.

Angel Reese will start Sunday with an LSU-record 23 double-doubles in as many games. AP Photo/Derick Hingle

Voepel: Reese’s rebound is one of the most impressive things we’ve seen this college season. It’s not just her bounce, but the fact that she can catch powerful rebounds with one hand and has such a nose for the ball. The 6-foot-3 forward is second in Division I and first among Power 5 players when it comes to 15.8 per game. So the double-double streak is likely to continue.

Boston really hasn’t had that many big challenges this season simply because few players come close to their caliber and they and the Gamecocks have dominated so many of their games. So she will probably enjoy this opportunity. As Charlie said, the 6-foot-5 Boston is the most relentless post player on defense in the country. Not only does Reese have to deal with Boston, but any defenders the Gamecocks can bring, including 6-7 Kamilla Cardoso.

What is the biggest key or X-factor determining this matchup?

Creme: LSU needs to produce at least two other players besides Reese, and Alexis Morris needs to be one of them. The Tigers don’t necessarily need a big scoring night from Morris; Her goals are to control the game when she has the ball, be efficient, lead the transition game and get her teammates to open shots. South Carolina is already creating additional possessions with their offensive rebound, leaving LSU — specifically Morris and Kateri Poole — unable to turn the ball over and creating even more opportunities for the Gamecocks. Raven Johnson played well against UConn and has become a much more important part of South Carolina’s offense, but if LSU doesn’t win the point guard matchup, the road to victory will be very difficult.



Zia Cooke lets her defender slip with a sweet crossover

Zia Cooke crosses the defender and then knocks down the knight in the third quarter.

Voepel: In fact, the turnovers in this game can be very large. South Carolina has a lot of ways to coerce them and then really take advantage of them. The Gamecocks are the deepest team in the country, and that has to do with how Staley built a championship favorite. There are players from South Carolina who could be bigger individual stars elsewhere but fit perfectly into their roles on such a good team. That means opponents just can’t afford many mistakes against them because they won’t be able to give South Carolina too many chances for easier points.

“It’s probably the most frustrating part of my coaching – unnecessary turnover,” Mulkey said. “You have to be stronger with the ball in your hands, you have to make good decisions and not play soft passes.”

What did LSU see in Sunday’s South Carolina-UConn clash that could help topple the No. 1 Gamecocks this week?

Creme: UConn’s defensive performance in the first half on Sunday provided a blueprint for the best approach to playing the Gamecocks: Huskies huddled in the paint and were content to let South Carolina guards fire jump shots. It worked – for a while. The Gamecocks shot 34.2% from field in the first half while limiting Boston’s touches (she was 0-5 from field in the first half).

Alexis Morris (right) had a career-high 31 points in a Jan. 30 win in Tennessee, but the senior guard’s ability to watch the ball as a fifth-year will be even more important against South Carolina. AP Photo/Derick Hingle

The strategy isn’t foolproof, however, as South Carolina is just that good and can adapt. Even if Johnson, Brea Beal and Zia Cooke remain missing, it doesn’t matter if Boston and Cardoso repeatedly snap those misses. Eventually, South Carolina’s size and ingenuity wore down the smaller huskies. Boston had 23 points and eight rebounds after halftime and the Gamecocks finished with 25 points for the second chance. Nonetheless, the strategy for the Tigers should remain the same. Holding the game plan against South Carolina’s relentlessness for 40 minutes is the real challenge.

Voepel: LSU faces a similar thing as UConn does in this game: For one of the rare times this season, the Tigers are underdogs. UConn tried to tap into that energy and handled it fairly well, although not enough to win.

Mulkey tries to temper the expectations to a degree, knowing how challenging South Carolina is.

“I don’t see it as a rivalry, nobody is at their level. They’re so good,” Mulkey said of this year’s matchup.

Still, Mulkey enjoys the challenge and is glad LSU is involved in a marquee game like this.

What is at stake from a bracketology perspective?



Morris discusses LSU’s win over Aggies, next matchup

Alexis Morris discusses the performance of the No. 3 Tigers in the 72-66 win over Texas A&M and says they are ready to take on No. 1 South Carolina.

Creme: This is LSU’s moment. Any discussion of the Tigers’ weak schedule outside of the conference ends in victory over the best team in the country. LSU would no longer be a mystery, and a win Sunday would make the Tigers worthy of a No. 1 seed. Even a good performance in a loss would say a lot.

When LSU takes on South Carolina similar to UConn last Sunday, that will also answer the question of whether the Tigers truly belong among the nation’s elite. That, plus a flawless run the rest of the way, or at least until a possible SEC Tournament Finals rematch with the Gamecocks, and some help elsewhere — Stanford stumbling on a tough schedule or UConn not being able to be Restoring level of play from a few months ago – would be enough for LSU to finish No. 1 on Selection Sunday.

Which team wins?

Voepel: Look at the gamecocks to protect the house. South Carolina has not lost at home to NC State since December 3, 2020. It’s the only time the Gamecocks have fallen in Colonial Life Arena in the last four seasons by counting. To say they are invincible might be a bit much, but it’s close. Nobody has beaten them anywhere this season and it will stay that way.

Creme: Sunday’s result means more for LSU overall, but let’s not forget that this game will essentially decide the SEC title. That’s primarily in the mind of the Gamecocks. So much is at stake and crowd support in Columbia, South Carolina must be the choice — and the margin will be double digits.

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