South Carolina appears unstoppable, rolls into ninth straight Sweet 16

For anybody who may need stepped away from their TVs for a few hours to get some recent air on Sunday, your NCAA Match replace is that this: South Carolina continues to be dominating and nonetheless very a lot within the hunt to defend its nationwide championship.

The No. 1 total seeded Gamecocks took down No. 8 seed South Florida 76-45 at Colonial Life Enviornment in Columbia, extending their present successful streak to 40 video games, which dates again to final 12 months’s SEC title sport loss to Kentucky.

Zia Cooke led all scorers with 21 factors, nationwide participant of the 12 months candidate Aliyah Boston had 11 factors and 11 rebounds, and Laeticia Amihere added 10 factors, six rebounds and a block.

Whereas the ultimate rating and stat sheet would point out that this was a typical South Carolina blowout, issues have been really slightly nervy to begin. The Bulls led after the primary quarter, making it simply the seventh time this season that the Gamecocks trailed after 10 minutes.

Earlier than the sport, head coach Jose Fernandez stated that his group wouldn’t be intimidated by the second or the environment, taking part in in Columbia in entrance of a rowdy crowd. USF beat Texas and Arkansas earlier this season when these opponents have been nationally ranked, and performed different NCAA tourney groups like NC State, Ohio State and Villanova. In addition they performed UConn shut final season, so this group knew what it was prefer to play in an enormous sport heading into it.

“I look at it as they have all the pressure on them,” Fernandez stated earlier than the sport. “It’s March. Anything can happen. We’re going to do what we do and see what happens.” 

The Bulls definitely examined the Gamecocks, attacking the glass, getting factors within the paint, capturing 3s and usually seeming unafraid to go proper on the reigning champs on their house court docket. Within the first and second quarters, South Florida performed bodily and made it tough for South Carolina to get something going inside, holding them to 12 factors within the paint after they common 44.5 factors per sport. South Carolina held a slender 33-29 edge on the break.

No matter glimmer of hope South Florida had that it’d be capable of cling round was shortly squashed within the third quarter.  

Legendary coach Daybreak Staley confirmed off her depth and used completely different combos to place the sport away. She has her beginning lineup of Boston, Cooke, Victaria Saxton, Brea Beal and Kierra Fletcher, however can tweak issues barely so as to add velocity, dimension and shake issues up as the sport dictates. For instance, Bree Corridor got here in off the bench and had seven factors and 6 rebounds, together with a team-high 4 offensive boards. She additionally hit a buzzer-beater to end the third quarter.

Within the fourth quarter with the sport already out of hand, Amihere had a monster block on the defensive finish, obtained out in transition, referred to as for the ball and made a layup to provide her group a 22-point lead. 

South Carolina’s bench, which is ranked first nationally averaging 36.8 PPG, scored 30 factors. As a group, that they had 10 blocks, 4 of which got here from Saxton, and outrebounded the Bulls 55-28, together with 24 offensive boards. 

Different notable South Carolina numbers embrace 34 factors within the paint, 17 second likelihood factors, and holding the Bulls to 16 factors within the second half.  

As Staley’s group marches on to its ninth straight Sweet 16, the query that’s been requested all season stays: Can anyone take down the Gamecocks?

Laken Litman covers school soccer, school basketball and soccer for FOX Sports activities. She beforehand wrote for Sports activities Illustrated, USA Right this moment and The Indianapolis Star. She is the creator of “Strong Like a Woman,” revealed in spring 2022 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Title IX. Observe her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

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