The defending national champions made a trip to Mott Athletics Center on Tuesday. Credit: Owen Main | Courtesy, Cal Poly Athletics

Cal Poly women’s basketball battled hard, but the defending National Champions, the University of South Carolina, showcased their dominance in a 79-36 defeat of the Mustangs on Tuesday, Nov. 22 inside Mott Athletics Center.

The No. 1 Gamecocks (5-0) were the third top-20 team the Mustangs (2-3) have faced this season, as Cal Poly lost to both No. 2 Stanford and No. 20 UCLA earlier in the year. 

South Carolina jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first four minutes of play. The Mustangs struggled offensively, but their grittiness on defense gave the Gamecocks fits. 

After settling into the game, Cal Poly forced South Carolina to turn the ball over seven times in the final six minutes of the quarter. The pesky defense caught the attention of the legendary player and head coach of the Gamecocks, Dawn Staley, who became visibly upset with her team’s struggles. 

With just 30 seconds left in the opening frame, junior forward Natalia Ackerman found the bottom of the net to put Cal Poly on the board, ending the first quarter trailing 14-2.

In the second quarter, South Carolina recalibrated its offense and rattled off an 11-point run to push ahead 25-4.

Senior guard Maddie Willett put her mark on the game, sinking consecutive three-pointers to cut the Mustang deficit to 27-10.

Cal Poly trailed at the half, 33-17, following a three from freshman forward Sierra Lichtie.

In the second half, the Mustangs got within 15 points of the Gamecocks after sophomore point guard Jazzy Anousinh splashed home a three to make it 35-20.

South Carolina then displayed why they’re the best team in the nation, scoring 24 unanswered points from the end of the third quarter into the fourth and extending their lead to 72-22.

The Mustangs ended the game on a 14-7 run, fueled by eight points from sophomore point guard Annika Shah

Despite struggling offensively, Cal Poly’s defense held South Carolina to its second-fewest points scored this early season. Prior to the meeting, the Gamecocks averaged 85.8 points through their first four games. 

Shah led the team in scoring with eight points while graduate guard Niki Kovacikova secured a team-leading five rebounds.

Two-time National Player of the Year Aliyah Boston captured a double-double for South Carolina with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Cal Poly survived its gauntlet of an opening month and will look to push forward in its annual Holiday Beach Classic tournament. The Mustangs open against Sacramento State on Friday, Nov. 26 at noon inside Mott Athletics Center.