South Carolina’s not been at its best on offense in the NCAA tournament. But it’s been more than good enough to advance to the Sweet 16.
The top-seeded Gamecocks overcome a sluggish start on Sunday to secure a 76-45 win over No. 8 South Florida and secure its place in the NCAA tournament’s second weekend.
South Florida put South Carolina to the test early, opening up a 16-12 lead while holding the Gamecocks to 35.7% shooting from the field. But the Gamecocks rode a 21-point second quarter to a 33-29 halftime edge. Then they took over.
A team that’s made a season of dominating second halves stifled the Bulls after halftime and leaned on its depth on offense to run away with the game. South Florida scored just 16 points in the second half, matching its first-quarter total. The Gamecocks limited the Bulls to 29.3% shooting from the field and forced 13 South Florida turnovers. They won the rebounding edge, 55-28.
With 2:10 remaining in the fourth quarter and South Carolina leading 69-40, head coach Dawn Staley emptied the bench to allow the South Carolina home crowd to give a standing ovation to its outgoing seniors in their final home game.
Aliyah Boston controlled the post while tallying 11 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal. Fellow senior Zia Cooke paced the offense with 21 points while shooting 8 of 19 from the field. Nine Gamecocks players played 15 minutes or more as the South Carolina bench proved again to be a significant edge. Senior Laeticia Amihere led the way with 10 points, six rebounds and a block off the bench while sophomore guard Bree Hall added seven points and six rebounds in 16 minutes.
The offense got better throughout as the Gamecocks finished the game shooting 42.3% fro the field, an improvement over their 38.9% effort in a first-round win over No. 16 Norfolk State.
The Gamecocks improved to 34-0 as they seek to secure a second straight national championship. The winner between No. 4 seed UCLA and No. 5 seed Oklahoma awaits next weekend.