South Carolina’s defense carried it to another decisive NCAA Tournament victory at the Colonial Life Arena, Sunday. Eight-seeded Miami (Fl.) became the latest victim, falling to the Gamecocks, 49-33, in the second round.
The Hurricanes swarmed Gamecocks center Aliyah Boston early, forcing the ball out of the All-American’s hands. But Boston adjusted and soon began to find cutting teammates and open shooters. Head coach Dawn Staley made an adjustment of her own, inserting 6-7 Syracuse transfer Kamilla Cardoso into the lineup early. The “twin towers” look freed up USC’s guards along the perimeter. Zia Cooke and Destanni Henderson answered the bell, combining to hit three of their first five 3-pointers to help top-ranked Carolina build a 23-10 halftime lead.
With Boston drawing Miami’s attention, Cardoso flourished, grabbing 8 rebounds and scoring a team-high 11 points. Boston (10 points, 16 rebounds) needed to sink a pair of late foul shots to notch her 26th consecutive double-double. The duo of Cardoso and Boston eventually wore the Canes frontcourt down as USC finished with a 26-8 advantage in interior scoring.
But it was defense that played the biggest role in Sunday’s success. USC limited Miami (Fl.) to 3 of 23 shooting (13%) in the first half and 24% overall. South Carolina held Howard and Miami (Fl.) to 8% shooting and a combined 14 points in first-half play. The Gamecocks set another mark by holding its first two NCAA Tournament opponents to 54 combined points, smashing the previous record.
South Carolina (31-2), making its eighth straight appearance in the Sweet 16, will meet the winner of (4) North Carolina/(5) Arizona in Greensboro, NC, Friday. The tipoff time has yet to be determined.