South Carolina Defeats LSU in SEC Women’s “Basket Brawl” Title Game

Dick Cox

March 19, 2024 at 1:02 pm.

South Carolina won its second consecutive SEC Tournament title over LSU, 79-72.  It was the eighth SEC Championship in the last 10 years, and its 16th consecutive win over LSU. The Gamecocks are now 32-0, and the No. 1 overall seed in the Women’s NCAA Tournament.

South Carolina freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley scored a career-high 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field and she tied a career-high four 3-pointers. Te-Hina PaoPao contributed 12 points. Aneesah Morrow led LSU with 19 points. After LSU scored the first basket of the game, the Gamecocks were able to take the lead and never gave it up.

The game got emotional and high-strung early.

In the first half, LSU’s Angel Reese was called for an intentional flagrant foul for throwing an elbow and hitting South Carolina’s 6-7 senior center Kamilla Cardoso in the head. Reese had pulled Cardoso’s hair, which the officials did not see. Cardoso was also hit in the mouth, giving her a bloody lip, which was shown to the officials.

The emotions ran high throughout the game, culminating in a brawl in the fourth quarter which saw multiple players ejected for leaving the bench.

South Carolina finished the game with six players. LSU finished with only five. Only the six Gamecock players who finished the game were allowed to participate in the postgame trophy celebration and cutting of the nets. Both locker rooms were closed to the media post-game.

The late altercation began when LSU’s Flau’jae Johnson was called for an intentional flagrant foul on South Carolina’s Fulwiley. A chain reaction of pushing and shoving ensued to the point of Johnson’s brother, Trayron Milton, jumping from his seat onto the court to enter the ruckus. Milton was arrested and taken to jail by the Greenville Police Department.

During the incident, South Carolina’s Cardoso shoved LSU’s Johnson. Cardoso was consequently ejected for fighting and will not be allowed to play in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Six players were ejected. Players ejected from the game included South Carolina’s Cardoso for shoving another player. South Carolina players Chloe Kitts, Tessa Johnson, and Sakima Walker, and LSU’s Aalyah Del Rosario and Janae Kent were ejected for leaving the bench during the altercation.

“The championship of the SEC Tournament was a great game and a tremendous showcase for women’s basketball as a sport, but I am highly disappointed in the incident that took place late in the game and regret that it took focus off what was otherwise a successful championship event,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, who was sitting sidecourt, able to witness what transpired during the game.

”I would like to extend my sincerest apologies for my actions during today’s game,” Cardoso said afterward. “My behavior was not representative of who I am as a person or the South Carolina program, and I deeply regret any discomfort or inconvenience it may have caused. I take full responsibility for my actions and assure you that I am committed to conducting myself with the utmost respect and sportsmanship in the future.”

“What you saw were two highly competitive teams trying to win a conference championship, and they did not handle it well,” said Gamecock head coach Dawn Staley. “Our players didn’t; their players didn’t. I’ll take responsibility for what happened for our side of it.”

“We’ve always talked about it. Never leave the bench. Never get too high with the highs or low with the lows. It is hard when you’re playing … your emotions get the best of you. It’s unfortunate that the players who were ejected can’t be part of the celebration.”

“I wish she would have pushed Angel Reese,” said LSU head coach Kim Mulkey after the game. “Don’t push a kid – you’re 6’8″. Don’t push somebody that little. That was uncalled for, in my opinion. Those two girls that were jawing, let them go at it.”

The SEC Women’s Basketball All-Tournament Team:

  • Rickea Jackson, Tennessee
  • Angel Reese, LSU
  • Flau’jae Johnson, LSU
  • Kamilla Cardoso, South Carolina
  • MiLaysia Fulwiley, South Carolina
  • The Most Outstanding Player Award went to Fulwiley, who became the first freshman to earn the honor

In the semi-final game South Carolina escaped their first loss of the season when Cardoso hit a turnaround three-point bank shot from the top of the circle at the buzzer to give the Gamecocks a dramatic win over the Tennessee Lady Vols to advance to the championship game on Sunday.

Tennessee made a critical mistake with 1.1 seconds remaining in the game. The Lady Vols had one foul to give before South Carolina would be shooting the bonus and they did not use it. All they had to do was foul the Gamecocks on the inbound pass and they would have to take the ball out of bounds again, and not have time to attempt a game-winning shot. Tennessee also took home a timeout they could have used to set up the strategy.