The South Carolina women's basketball team will advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament after defeating Belmont 74-52 on Friday afternoon.
South Carolina held a 16-13 lead after the first quarter. Even though it took some time for the Gamecocks to secure a strong lead, their defensive game remained present.
This was just one part of South Carolina’s game plan that was executed after having a 13-point lead at halftime. The Gamecocks allowed only three points during the second quarter.
“They are a very good three-point shooting team," said senior forward Alexis Jennings. "We knew that if we could get out there and pressure them, we could get stops and make the right plays.”
After the half, senior guard Doniyah Cliney said that the Gamecocks wanted to make a statement.
Junior guard Tyasha Harris posted a pull-up three at the end of the third quarter to solidify South Carolina’s 24-point lead. Harris and Jennings led the team with 12 points each.
Jennings said she was grateful her guards were able to give her the ball. She knew the Gamecocks needed to raise their defensive presence.
“After those two losses, we knew that we had to find a way to compete," Jennings said. "The fact that everybody on the floor is able to guard perimeter players — that's going to be great and key for us moving forward."
South Carolina continued to stop Belmont’s three-point game, disrupting the Bruins' offensive efforts.
“It was probably the second-most important thing that we decided, were the keys of the game behind pressuring the basketball," head coach Dawn Staley said. "I thought we did a great job of just hounding them all game long."
With a 74-52 win over Belmont, South Carolina will continue to compete in its eighth-straight NCAA Tournament under Staley. Staley's winning record at Halton Arena grew to 7-0.
“At this point in time, everybody is flowing and everybody is in tune with each other,” Cliney said. “Everybody knows everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, and, you know, we’re just flowing. ... We are just going to keep going forward.”
As for Jennings and Cliney, their senior leadership carried throughout the game to drive the upset. Jennings said that they have something to prove even after this win.
“The last go-around is bittersweet, but we came here, we have a job to do,” Jennings said. “We just have to stay on the same track and stay in tune with each other, and I feel like we are unstoppable when we do that.”
The Gamecocks will play the winner of Florida State versus Bucknell on Sunday in Charlotte, North Carolina. The time is to be determined.