The No. 1 overall seed South Carolina Gamecocks earned its ninth consecutive Sweet 16 appearance and will take on the No. 4 seed UCLA Bruins this Saturday in Greenville in the third round of the NCAA tournament.
The Gamecocks are coming off a 76-45 win against South Florida, where Zia Cooke had a team-high 21 points, while Aliyah Boston had her 81st career double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
“They’re very confident in themselves because of the experience and the minutes that we’ve logged playing together,” head coach Dawn Staley said.
The Round of 32 game was not only the team's last game in Colonial Life Arena this season and the last home game for South Carolina's seniors, but it was a milestone win for the program.
Staley recorded her 400th win as coach and the team won its 40th straight game, which extends back to South Carolina’s 2022 championship run.
“We just do a very good job of keeping the main thing, the main thing," graduate guard Kierra Fletcher said. "We focus on one game at a time and we don’t look ahead against anyone, and we just try to stay in the moment."
The Bruins earned a birth in the Sweet 16 after defeating Oklahoma 82-73 in the second round. Senior guard Charisma Osborne led the team with 36 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
"It means a lot. I haven't been (to the Sweet 16) before, so I'm super excited," Osborne said. "We're ready. We've just been having so much fun. I think that's the key, and I think that's why we've been able to win."
UCLA is 27-9 and finished fourth in the Pac-12 with a conference record of 11-7, but the Bruins lost the Pac-12 tournament championship game to an unranked Washington State team.
The Gamecocks and Bruins have already met once this season, a 73-64 win for South Carolina on Nov. 29 in Columbia. Boston had 18 points, 10 rebounds and three assists while Osborne had 24 points and six rebounds, and both players led their respective teams in scoring for the game.
"They are a tremendous team," UCLA head coach Cori Close said. "I didn't know if we would meet them again, but I definitely wanted to learn some important lessons from that so we'd be ready if we got the opportunity."
This will be the fourth time the two teams match up, though the Gamecocks have dominated the series with the Bruins 3-0.
In addition to making it to the second weekend of the tournament, Staley and Boston are getting recognition during awards season.
On Monday, Staley was named one of the four finalists for the Werner Ladder Naismith Coach of the Year award, which she previously won in 2020 and 2022.
A day later, Boston was announced as a finalist for the Jersey Mike’s Naismith Women’s College Player of the Year award. As with Staley, claiming this trophy would mark back-to-back wins for Boston, who won it last year.
“I’ve never coached a player, a superstar like herself, that is full of sacrifice, like full of it,” Staley said.
South Carolina and UCLA play in the Greenville Regional 1 semifinals at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on Saturday at 2 p.m. on ESPN.