Following a 27-1 (15-1 SEC) regular season, the No. 1 South Carolina women’s basketball team will begin its quest for postseason championships with the SEC tournament in Nashville, Tennessee from March 2 to March 6.
South Carolina finished the regular season with a near-perfect record. It was a hard-fought season that saw the team play some of the country’s most talented teams.
“The process has honestly been long, but definitely fun to experience,” said freshman guard Saniyah Rivers following a win over Tennessee on Feb. 20.
Against AP Top 25 teams, the Gamecocks earned an 11-0 record and finished with five wins in games against top-10 opponents. The team’s schedule was planned to prepare them for postseason play, head coach Dawn Staley said.
“It forced them to understand this level of play and how every day, it’s a daily grind, get them into that mode," Staley said in a press conference on Feb. 23. “The SEC prepares you for what’s next and that’s the postseason.”
The team’s only loss of the season came by a single point in the SEC opener against Missouri.
The Gamecocks secured the No.1 seed in the SEC following the win over Tennessee, its thirteenth consecutive conference win. After securing the double-bye through the first two rounds, it will open play on March 4 in a potential rematch game against Missouri, but first, the ninth-seeded Tigers need to upset eighth-seeded Arkansas.
Led by the 2022 SEC Player of the Year, junior forward Aliyah Boston, South Carolina looks to capture its third tournament championship in a row and seventh in the last eight years. Winning its seventh championship would give the Gamecocks the second most SEC championships of all time.
Boston averaged 17 points and 12 rebounds in the regular season. She ended the season on a 21 consecutive game double-double streak, adding to her collection of accolades. Despite the personal success, Boston said she is focused on the team's achievements.
“The main goal is just coming here, winning every game and making it all the way," Boston said after a Feb. 17 victory over Auburn.
Guards senior Destanni Henderson and junior Zia Cooke were also crucial to the team's success, averaging 12 points apiece. Henderson also averaged a team-high four assists.
This squad has the advantage of experience. The team’s key players have been together for multiple seasons at this point, and Staley said this team knows what needs to be done.
“We got really good players that really have an understanding of what they need to do, what their responsibilities are and they do them,” Staley said after her squad's final regular-season game against Ole Miss. “They don’t settle for anything besides their responsibility.”
The team will continue to focus on preparing to face their opponents, Boston said.
“We’ll just play and see how it goes from that, but staying focused on our opponents and what they like to do, and knowing how we have to scout them is just important,” Boston said after the Tennessee win.
The SEC championship is just the first of a few trophies players hope to hoist over their heads at the end of the season.
“I just want this team to get everything that they deserve, everything that they work for, everything that they earned,” Staley said after the team clinched the regular-season championship.