COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck have three national championship rings for a reason.
A big game, a big moment, and the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's seniors rise to the occasion -- again, again, and again. Monday's night battle of unbeatens was just the latest example of doing just that.
The trio combined for 53 points, with Stewart netting a game-high 25, as the top-ranked Huskies rolled past No. 2 South Carolina 66-54 before a sellout crowd of 18,000 at Colonial Life Arena.
"We know that we're the ones everyone looks towards to make a play when the game is on the line," Stewart said. "But even when we're just setting the tone, setting the pace for the game, they look at us to see what we're going to do.
UConn (23-0) is now 19-3 in games featuring the top-two teams in the Associated Press poll, winning six straight and 14 of 15.
"I like those numbers," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.
South Carolina (22-1) is 0-3 in 1-2 affairs, including both its losses to the Huskies in the last two seasons.
UConn has also won 15 consecutive games against Southeastern Conference dating back to a 2007 loss to LSU. The Huskies have not lost to an Atlantic Coast Conference team in nine years as well and have beaten every Big Ten team they've faced since 2005.
"Some of the teams in the Power 5 should join our conference," Auriemma said.
"But our guys get fired up and they love that challenge," he added. "They know that's the kind of challenge that they are preparing for every day. People are putting too much emphasis on who we play to prepare us for that challenge. We prepare for these challenges every day. You don't have to kill yourself to prove that you're ready. You just have to be ready. It doesn't matter who we play or who we are competing against. A game like this, I'm not surprised we won because we have more players that have been in this environment than they do. And those guys played great tonight."
Stewart was 9-for-18 from the floor and recorded her 35th career double-double by adding 10 rebounds and blocking five shots.
Jefferson, who along with Stewart played the entire 40 minutes, had 12 points, six assists and a pair of steals.
Then there's Tuck. In her two games back since she sat out four due to right knee soreness, she totaled 33 minutes of action. She matched that Monday night and had 16 points and five rebounds along with a solid defensive effort against the Gamecocks' Alaina Coates.
"Coach asked me about it and I told him I was good and I still feel good," Tuck said.
"That's Morgan Tuck," Auriemma said of the Bolingbrook, Illinois native's performance. "It's something that everyone on our team and on our staff knows. There was a point in time that I asked if she wanted a breather. She said, 'I'm good. I'm good the whole game.' That's Morgan."
UConn did not trail for the sixth consecutive game en route to its 60th straight victory.
An 8-0 run -- two free throws by Stewart, two baskets by Jefferson, and a Tuck hoop -- gave the Huskies a 12-4 lead. It was 17-8 after one quarter.
With UConn leading 30-15, South Carolina sophomore standout A'ja Wilson went out with an ankle injury. But the Gamecocks responded to pull within 35-25 at the break.
South Carolina got no closer. Tuck had eight points as the Huskies built their lead to 21 going to the fourth quarter. The Gamecocks got it down to 15 with 6:39 left but baskets by Gabby Williams and Stewart, both assisted by Jefferson, started the exodus to the exits for the sellout crowd.
"I don't know how many UConn fans we had here," Auriemma said. "Maybe it was double digits. But there was a time that I heard them all because they were the only ones making noise. It was nice."
Williams finished with five points and matched Stewart's game high of 10 rebounds. The Huskies matched the Gamecocks' vaunted frontcourt on the boards (35-35) and in points in the paint (30-30).
Wilson, who returned late in the third quarter, and reserve Sarah Imovbioh led South Carolina with 13 points each. All-American Tiffany Mitchell added 12 points but was unable to get much going. Coates had just two points.
UConn will return to AAC action Sunday against second-place Temple at McConigle Hall in Philadelphia.
Before the game Monday night, UConn and South Carolina announced that they had signed a two-year deal to extend their series. The Gamecocks will visit Connecticut next season with the Huskies returning here in 2018.
Stewart and Jefferson won't be a part of that and whether Tuck will be there remains to be seen. But they left a lasting impression on 18,000 people Monday night.
"We've been playing for so long together that we have a lot of confidence in each other," Stewart said. "We know that we'll do this for our team and they will follow us through."