South Carolina battled through struggles but inevitably beat a strong 8-seed, University of South Florida, 76-45 in the second round of the NCAA tournament to secure a spot in the Sweet 16.
“I thought this was just a great overall game. South Florida is a great team,” senior forward Aliyah Boston said. “They like to push in transition. I think we did a great job of just getting out and trying to stop that."
The Gamecocks struggled early with getting possessions and defending the Bulls. Both teams battled back and forth throughout the first half with the halftime score ending 33-29 in favor of South Carolina.
USF Senior guard Elena Tsineke had a team high 20 points and threatened South Carolina’s defense with four 3-pointers on six attempts.
USF's strong first quarter start and accurate shooting applied pressure to the highly ranked Gamecocks, but it was unable to keep up with a regrouped second-half South Carolina team.
Sophomore guard Bree Hall scored 7 points and helped contribute to the Gamecocks' second-half switch.
“I think, the second half, we just went kill mode, honestly,” Hall said. “I think we really just stuck it out and knew what we could do best, really, was run the other team down.”
Senior forward Victoria Saxton struggled to find the net but eventually found a way to contribute, recording five rebounds and 4 points. Saxton said she's excited to play in the next round, but knows it won't be an easy task.
“Nothing is easy and I think everyone is going to give us their best and we just have to know that we have to go out there and take care of business from the jump," Saxton said.
Boston continues to shine on the court for the Gamecocks and helped contributed to today's comeback win. She played a physical and defensive game, stopping the Bulls' shots and rebounding 11 times.
"I've never coached a player like a superstar like herself that is full of sacrifice," head coach Dawn Staley said. "She could have easily had 30 and 15, if we really just said, 'hey, let's just continue to feed her, feed her, feed her, feed her.'"
For South Carolina seniors Boston, Saxton, guard Zia Cooke, guard Brea Beal, guard Olivia Thompson and forward Laeticia Amihere, this marked their last game in garnet and black at Colonial Life Arena.
“(It's) very emotional in a way, but I try, like I said, I just try to keep my emotions very, very low until the end of the tournament,” Cooke said. “I just want to keep the main thing, the main thing, and I don't really have time to be sad right now, I just got time to focus on what is in front.”
The team will now prepare for the Sweet 16 in Greenville, S.C., where the team will play Saturday against the winner of Oklahoma and UCLA.