COLUMBIA — South Carolina coach Dawn Staley didn't get the landmark win she wanted from her latest matchup with No. 1 Stanford.
She thought her Gamecocks made a strong statement, though, about where they're headed this season.
No. 21 South Carolina held Stanford 25 points below its season average and had the lead with less than three minutes to go before falling to the Cardinal 53-49 on Wednesday night.
Staley and her team saw playing Stanford (10-0) as an opportunity to prove they belonged among the game's best. Despite the loss, Staley believes the Gamecocks showed they're closing in on elite teams.
"We didn't shock the world, but I think the nation understands the type of basketball that we play here at the University of South Carolina," Staley said.
Aleighsa Welch led the Gamecocks with 17 points while Ieasia Walker had 15. The rest of South Carolina's starters, though, combined to go 4 of 31 from the floor for 12 points.
Welch said if the players repeat the detailed preparation they put in for Stanford each game of the rest of the season, they'll have success. Walker said the Gamecocks played hard, yet she didn't want her teammates to be content with losing.
"We were pleased with the effort, but we don't want to accept the moral victory," she said. "We want to get the wins that are gettable."
Chiney Ogwumike had 21 points and 15 rebounds, Mikaela Ruef hit a tiebreaking layup with 53 seconds left and Toni Kokenis hit six foul shots down the stretch in Stanford's victory.
"We had a target on our back tonight and that's one of the things we have to expect when we come to games like this," Ogwumike said.
South Carolina (10-1) gave Stanford all it could handle at the raucous Colonial Life Arena, where more than 8,000 fans screamed with each possession. The arena erupted when Sancheon White's jumper gave South Carolina its final lead 44-42 with 2:32 remaining.
Ogwumike answered with a go-ahead three-point play and the Gamecocks tied it up on Welch's foul shot. That's when Ruef drove left and threw up a shot that barely scraped over the rim and fell in to put Stanford ahead to stay.
The Gamecocks pulled to 51-49 on Walker's 3-pointer with 3 seconds left, but Kokenis added two final foul shots to ice things.
"I'm really proud of our team, how Toni and Chiney really stayed with things," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "You're in a very hostile environment, great crowd, great atmosphere."
Not that it was pretty.
Stanford had a season-high 18 turnovers and shot 40 percent. Still, it's a win and the third time in program history - all under VanDerveer - its started 10-0. The last time came in the 1991-92 season.
NO. 2 CONNECTICUT 97, OAKLAND 25
In Hartford, Conn., Bria Hartley and Breanna Stewart each scored 21 points and Brianna Banks had 18 to lead the Connecticut (9-0) in a 97-25 rout of Oakland (5-6).
NO. 5 NOTRE DAME 100, ALABAMA A&M 39
In Las Vegas, Kayla McBride scored 16 points as Notre Dame (7-1) cruised past Alabama A&M (1-6).
NO. 6 GEORGIA 72, TEXAS CHRISTIAN 59
In Fort Worth, Texas, Erika Ford provided another quick scoring burst for sixth-ranked Georgia, and the Lady Bulldogs (12-0) are still undefeated a dozen games into the season.
Ford scored 10 points in a span of just over 6½ minutes midway through the first half, and her only other basket in the game was a 3-pointer in the second half to stifle a TCU rally, as Georgia won.
"That's what she does. Almost every game this year, she comes in and does two or three great, outstanding, immediate things that impact the game," Georgia coach Andy Landers said. "She did it again tonight. It's crazy."
The Lady Bulldogs were up only 10-9 before Ford, the sophomore guard who had checked in on the previous timeout, made a 3-pointer with 15:04 left in the first half. By time Ford had a steal and breakaway layup with 8:21 left, she had scored 10 points in a 15-3 run that stretched the lead to 25-12.
After TCU (5-4) pulled to 53-46 on Kamy Cole's 3-pointer with 9½ minutes left in the game, part of a 22-8 run, TCU never got closer. Ford made a rainbow 3-pointer from the wing right after that.
Ford finished with 13 points, while Anne Marie Armstrong and Jasmine Hassell had 14 each. Hassell also had nine rebounds.
NO. 17 NORTH CAROLINA 76, EAST CAROLINA 67
In Myrtle Beach (S.C.), Tierra Ruffin-Pratt scored 24 points to lead North Carolina (11-1) past East Carolina (8-3).
NO. 22 TEXAS A&M 83, KANSAS STATE 60
In Las Vegas, Kelsey Bone scored 22 points, hitting 11 of her 13 shots, to lift Texas A&M (7-3) over Kansas State (7-2).
NO. 23 FLORIDA STATE 94, MERCER 42
In Tallahassee, Fla., Natasha Howard had 17 points and 12 rebounds as Florida State (9-1) routed Mercer (7-3).