Hello, Sweet 16! No. 1 Gamecocks battle past USF Bulls to advance in NCAAs
It’s back to Greenville for the Gamecocks.
No. 1 South Carolina defeated South Florida 76-45 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday in Colonial Life Arena.
South Florida took control of the game early on, getting out to an 8-3 lead. It was led by the offense of leading scorer Elena Tsineke, who finished with 17 points.
The Bulls led 16-12 after 10 minutes.
South Carolina slowly began to regain control, though South Florida never went away. The Bulls were shooting 4-9 from 3-point range by halftime, but USC led 33-29.
The Gamecocks created separation in the third quarter, tightening up on defense and out-scoring South Florida 19-7. USC also took advantage of extra possessions, with 21 rebounds in that period alone.
South Florida cooled off by the start of the fourth quarter, and South Carolina held on from there.
Aliyah Boston finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
The Gamecocks now move on to the Sweet Sixteen, where they will face Monday’s winner of the UCLA-Oklahoma game. USC will play its next game on Saturday.
COOKE THRIVES IN THIRD QUARTER
Senior guard Zia Cooke shot 3-9 in the first half, but took over for South Carolina in the third quarter.
Cooke scored nine of her 21 points in the period on 4-7 shooting. Most of her offense came from close range shots, both from drives to the rim and fast break points.
She scored an and-1 with 4:51 remaining in the quarter to give South Carolina a 13-point lead.
FRESHIES’ HOME FINALE
South Carolina’s 2019 recruiting class — known as the “Freshies” — likely shared the court together in Colonial Life Arena for the last time.
USC’s core group of Boston, Cooke, Brea Beal, Laeticia Amihere and Olivia Thompson all joined the team at the same time, and the Gamecocks have a 127-8 record with them on the roster.
Boston is widely considered to be the top pick in the upcoming WNBA Draft, with Cooke, Beal and Amihere appearing in mock draft boards as well.
The class does have an extra year of eligibility that the players could opt in to because of the shorented 2019-20 season.
BACK TO THE SWEET SIXTEEN
South Carolina notched its tenth Sweet Sixteen appearance under Dawn Staley on Sunday.
USC will learn who its opponent is on Monday, when UCLA faces Oklahoma in the second round in Los Angeles. The winner of that game will face South Carolina at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, where the SEC Tournament was held.
The Bruins lost to USC during non-conference play in November in Colonial Life Arena.
The last time the Gamecocks did not make it past the Sweet Sixteen round was in 2019.