The South Carolina women’s basketball team fell 66-65 in the final seconds to the Stanford Cardinal, ending its NCAA tournament run in the Final Four.
Sophomore forward Aliyah Boston battled until the end, putting up a double-double with 11 points and 16 rebounds. With five seconds left, Stanford had a 1-point lead when Boston stole the ball to give the Gamecocks a last second chance. Two missed layups by sophomore guard Brea Beal and Boston kept the score short as the buzzer went off.
This battle of two No. 1 ranked teams was close in score from start to finish — the biggest lead was by six points. Stanford’s win boiled down to second-chance scoring and limiting its margin of error.
South Carolina out-rebounded the Cardinal 40-36, but Stanford was able to score 24 second-chance points in comparison to South Carolina’s 15. The Gamecocks struggled to utilize their rebounds and find a consistent offensive rhythm. South Carolina made 66.7% of free throws and shot 45% from the 3-point line.
“The teaching tool is, I mean, we're inches from competing for a National Championship on Sunday. That is the margin of error that you need to practice with,” head coach Dawn Staley said.
Rebounds and turnovers gave South Carolina several offensive opportunities, but the Gamecocks struggled to find consistent momentum, shooting 35.8%.
A highlight of the first half was Boston’s aggressive block on Stanford’s junior guard Lexie Hull in the second quarter that gave sophomore guard Zia Cooke the chance to hit her second of five 3-pointers of the night.
Cooke was the leading scorer for the Gamecocks and went on to score 25 points, shooting 43.5% from the field.
“She got great looks. She created great looks,” Staley said. “She put us in a position to win a basketball game with some of the things that she did for us on both sides of the basketball.”
South Carolina also ran into foul trouble throughout the game with Boston and junior guard Destanni Henderson both having four, which forced those players to rotate in and out in the fourth quarter.
“We had to sub [Boston] in and out at the end of the basketball game, in the fourth quarter,” Staley said. “When she was in there, she gave us an opportunity to close the gap and win the game, an attempt to win the game.”
In the fourth quarter, Henderson stepped up, making two 3-pointers and a 3-point play to keep the game close. Staley said she only wishes Henderson had “shot a little bit sooner.”
“Shoot in the first quarter. Shoot in the second quarter. She has a beautiful shot,” Staley said. “I'm glad she shot when she shot and gave us an opportunity to win. She put us up by one, we just couldn't close the deal.”
South Carolina wrapped up its 26-5 season and 14-2 SEC record in San Antonio with this loss to Stanford.
"It's going to stick because it was a big game. Final Four. It's a dream to be here. So it's just going to motivate us," Cooke said. "Like coach said, we're going to work on the little things, what we can do better to get here next year and come out with the victory."