No. 1 South Carolina survived an intense battle against No. 9 LSU on Thursday, collecting a 76-70 comeback win to remain the nation's lone undefeated team. The Gamecocks started the game a bit shaky, falling behind by five to mark their largest halftime deficit of the season, but once again showed they are a tough second half team en route to a 28th straight road victory. 

It was a nail-biting finish as the game was tied 70-70 with 1:37 remaining. South Carolina's Bree Hall hit a 3-pointer to give the Gamecocks the lead with 1:14 to go, then Raven Johnson converted a layup with 24 seconds left to seal the deal. Hall was huge for the Gamecocks down the stretch, as she also drained a 3-pointer with 2:54 remaining to bring her team's lead to 70-67. 

LSU fed off the energy in Pete Maravich Assembly Center as they competed in front of an electric sold-out crowd. The Tigers took control right away and even saw a 9-0 run in the middle of the first quarter. They continued pushing and finished the first half with a 41-36 advantage, the largest halftime deficit South Carolina had seen all season. 

The Gamecocks' top two scorers, Kamilla Cardoso and Te-Hina Paopao, combined for just six points over the first two quarters. South Carolina as a whole struggled to move the ball and grab offensive rebounds before the break.

Whatever speech Dawn Staley gave her team at halftime certainly worked, however. Her team returned to the court with a lot more energy and focus in the second half. The Gamecocks kept pushing and eventually found a 63-61 lead with 5:58 remaining in the fourth quarter. Former Gamecock Aliyah Boston, now a WNBA star, was in the crowd and stood up to celebrate. 

But LSU wasn't ready to fold, and the teams continued to trade the lead. Unfortunately for Kim Mulkey's squad, Angel Reese suffered a cramp as LSU held a 67-64 advantage. Reese was able to return to the court, but her struggles continued as she fouled out with 4:02 remaining. South Carolina outscored the Tigers 11-3 the rest of the way. 

South Carolina had a balanced offensive effort with all five starters scoring in double figures, led by Chloe Kitts with 14 points. LSU also had their five starters in double digits, with Aneesah Morrow registering yet another double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Reese had 15 points and eight rebounds before exiting the game. 

South Carolina improved to 18-0 overall and 6-0 in the SEC, while LSU dropped to 18-3 and 5-2 in conference play. 

South Carolina's depth is lethal 

Even a tired Angel Reese mentioned South Carolina's depth at halftime. LSU trotting out its usual seven-player rotation in a physical game like this was bound to be a difficult task. 

Both teams saw all of their starters reach double figures, but the Gamecocks also had valuable contributions from their bench, outscoring LSU's reserves 16-4.

One of the Gamecocks' top reserves was freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley, who in 10 minutes recorded eight points, four rebounds and a steal, along with knocking down a buzzer-beating 3-pointer right before halftime. Fulwiley provided the spark South Carolina needed before the break, as all her points came in the second quarter. 

Meanwhile, Gamecocks forward Sania Feagin went 3-for-3 from the floor while tallying six points, four rebounds and an assist.

LSU collapsed without Reese

Just like last season Reese is one of the most important contributors for LSU. She leads her team with almost 20 points and 12 rebounds per game, and she can also bring the heat defensively.

The Tigers were +10 in the 29 minutes she was on the floor, but -16 during the minutes she sat. Reese picked up her fourth foul with 8:20 remaining, and it came at a bad time as LSU clearly needed her on the court with South Carolina gaining momentum. 

The matchup between Kamilla Cardoso and Reese was fun to watch, but its physicality and intensity certainly made staying out of foul trouble difficult. 

This isn't to say Reese is the only player powering LSU because Morrow deserves a lot of praise, too. However, it's nearly impossible to beat South Carolina without being at full strength. 

The offensive glass matters

South Carolina and LSU are both in the top three nationally when it comes to rebounds, as they average over 47 per game. However, the Gamecocks struggled on the offensive glass in the first half with just three boards on that end, including just four second chance points. 

Meanwhile, 10 of LSU's 25 rebounds in the first half were on the offensive glass. The Tigers collected 11 second chance points in the first half, and it was a big reason why they were able to take a 41-36 lead to the halftime break.

South Carolina improved significantly on the glass in the second half, finishing with 12 offensive rebounds and 14 second chance points. Dawn Staley pointed out the importance of that area of the game during her postgame press conference.