South Carolina finishes 2nd straight perfect regular season

Kamilla Cardoso had 18 points and 14 rebounds, Te-Hina Paopao scored 14 points and No. 1 South Carolina completed its second straight perfect regular season with a 76-68 victory over Tennessee on Sunday.

Cardoso and Paopao, both seniors, excelled on senior day as the Gamecocks (29-0, 16-0 SEC) won their 47th consecutive SEC regular-season game, their 57th straight at home and their sixth in a row over the Lady Vols (17-11, 10-6).

South Carolina is the first team to enter the SEC tournament undefeated multiple times, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

A perfect season was not talked about among the team when the season began, Paopao said, only a mindset to win each time players took the floor.

“It wasn’t really a goal,” said Paopao, a transfer from Oregon. “It was just, ‘We got to win the next game and the game after that.”

Rickea Jackson had a game-high 29 points for Tennessee.

Cardoso played in front of her mother, Janete Soares, and older sister, Jessica Silva, after they arrived from Brazil. Coach Dawn Staley facilitated their arrival, with help from U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, by getting visas approved. Cardoso put on quite a show with her family in the crowd.

She had six points and six rebounds in the first quarter. After Tennessee took a 24-23 lead, she led the way as the Gamecocks outscored the Lady Vols 17-8 to close the second quarter and take a 40-32 lead into halftime.

When Tennessee cut a 15-point deficit to 63-60 on Jackson’s jumper with 4:51 to play, it was Cardoso who extended the margin with consecutive inside shots. Cardoso, who fouled out late in the fourth quarter, got a loud ovation in the sold-out arena as she went to the bench.

Cardoso finished with her 13th double-double this season and 29th of her career.

Tennessee coach Kellie Harper was proud of her team’s resolve in hanging in. The Gamecocks “just don’t have a lot of deficiencies,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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