For 20 minutes, USF played top-ranked USC close trailing just 33-29 at the half. Everything, however, changed in quarter number three. The Gamecocks outscored the Bulls 19-7, holding them to two field goals and grabbing 21 rebounds, and from there went on to a 76-45 win to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Women’s Tournament next weekend in Greenville.
The Gamecocks are going to the Sweet 16 for a 13th time and will do so on a 40 game winning streak. They are 34-0 and within four victories of becoming the 5th program all-time to complete a perfect season in women’s basketball. They will be returning to the arena in Greenville where they won the SEC Tournament earlier in the month.
Zia Cooke led the Gamecocks’ third quarter surge making four of their eight baskets. She had nine of her game high 21 points in the quarter. Cooke made four of the Gamecocks’ first five third-quarter baskets to jump-start the offense in the second half.
Defensively, USC locked down on the Bulls, who shot 40% in the first half, including four three-pointers. The Bulls missed their first five shots of the third quarter, and they went 5-28 from the floor in the second half with two three-pointers.
The Bulls opened the half with a pair of free throws to pull to within 33-31, then USC went on a 13-2 run. They closed the quarter with a 6-0 run and opened the fourth with a 6-0 run for a 58-36 lead with 6:58 to play. It wasn’t long after that Dawn Staley was able to start clearing her bench.
Aliyah Boston had 11 points and 11 rebounds in the expected final home game for her and her senior teammates. That 2019 recruiting class lost just one home during their career.
The Gamecocks finished with 55 rebounds, 24 on the offensive glass they converted into 17 second chance points. They scored 34 points in the paint, blocked 10 shots and forced 11 turnovers.