Reigning SEC Player of the Year Boston slows league start

COLUMBIA, SC (AP) — South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston often thinks of clear lanes with just one defender to avoid. The dream is unlikely to come true for the reigning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year for quite some time.

Boston is off to a slow start from the SEC, the 6-foot-5 senior double-double machine managed to score in single digits and rebound in his first two league games.

Boston managed just 10 points and 10 rebounds combined in No. 1 South Carolina’s first two league games. She had eight double-doubles in her team’s first 12 non-conference games.

Against Georgia last Monday, Boston was swarmed by up to four defensemen in hopes of cutting production.

“These are definitely new types of unwanted defenses that we’ve seen,” Boston said Wednesday. “As we continue to see it, I think I’m just going to be more aware of it and maneuver a lot better.”

Not that Boston’s singles singles cost the Gamecocks, who scored big wins over Texas A&M (76-34) and the Bulldogs (68-51).

With Boston tied up and deprived of the ball, that left others on South Carolina’s talent-rich roster to take over. Senior Zia Cooke had a career-high 31 points in the win at Georgia.

“At the same time, my teammates are knocking down shots,” Boston said. “So if that continues to be the game plan, then they’re going to shoot it.”

Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley understands how critical it is for Boston to play at their level if the team is to win another national title. Boston played 30 games with double-digit points and rebounds a year ago as South Carolina won the national title.

When Boston is going strong, so are the Gamecocks.

“We definitely have to cast Aliyah Boston no matter how they’re going to play us,” Staley said.

Boston is no stranger to having multiple defenders in its path to try and keep South Carolina’s leading scorer in check. Staley said when Boston doesn’t produce the way she’s used to, it can hurt her mental game.

“I just told him to consider it flattery,” Staley said. “It takes four people, as no one in the country has to guard against all that.”

Staley thought Boston, who had just six shots in 31 minutes against Georgia, pushed when the ball couldn’t reach him.

“Teams are really trying to cancel it,” Staley said with a laugh.

Boston has been a player to rely on since arriving in South Carolina four years ago. She had a triple-double on her freshman debut, has 68 career double-doubles and has been held to single digits in just 18 of 115 games. Boston has never gone three straight without scoring 10 or more points, a feat it hopes to maintain against Auburn (10-4, 0-2 SEC) Thursday night.

Staley said Auburn and coach Johnnie Harris generally want to play direct defense, perhaps giving other Boston and South Carolina post players more room to operate near the basket.

Staley said Boston, likely the No. 1 overall selection in the WNBA, should head to the pros, where they’ll face fewer defenders who are just waiting for them – the league has a defensive three-second rule – down.

“There’s probably only a few months left to deal with it,” Staley said. “If I’m her, I’m out of here.”

Boston said she practiced well on Wednesday and feels mentally ready for what lies ahead. She, too, is thinking about her professional future and how much extra space she will have for her game.

“I definitely thought about it,” she said. “But right now, while I’m here, he’s adjusting, taking the hit and going from there.”


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