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No. 1 South Carolina survives test with No. 11 Utah to stay undefeated

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Te-Hina Paopao shoots the ball in the second quarter against Utah at Mohegan Sun Arena on December 10, 2023 in Uncasville, Connecticut. (Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Top-ranked South Carolina was up by three points against No. 11 Utah with just under five minutes left in the game. Te-Hina Paopao dribbled up the court to the elbow and released a jump shot. 

Her shot dropped into the hoop. Three minutes later, Paopao had the ball in the key again. She dribbled closer and closer to the basket and was approaching traffic. She lifted her arms to shoot as she ran, and her shot fell into the hoop again as her arm hung in the air. 

Paopao’s last-minute points kept her team afloat in a difficult matchup. The game remained close until the final buzzer, but Dawn Staley’s squad secured the victory against Utah, 78-69, to remain undefeated this season. 

The Gamecocks faced their toughest challenge of the year against Alissa Pili and the Utes. Pili dropped 21 points in the first half, and she only played 13 of the 20 minutes after getting into foul trouble. 

Kamilla Cardoso got into foul trouble herself after being called for three charges on Jenna Johnson, who put on a foul-drawing clinic against the defensive powerhouse. 

When Pili returned to the court in the second half, she did so in her usual form. Pili rained buckets on South Carolina, finishing the game with 37 points, a career-high. No other Utes came close to her offensive contributions, and the only other Utah player to reach double-digits was Dasia Young with 10 points. 

The Gamecocks spread the love on the scoreboard with four players in double-digits and 26 bench points. 

South Carolina was plagued by turnovers in its closest game of the season. Utah forced 23 turnovers and collected 11 points in transition, but they weren’t enough for the Utes to earn their first win against a first-ranked squad.