Top-seeded South Carolina survived another close fourth quarter to advance to the Elite Eight.
The No. 1-seeded Gamecocks (32-2) defeated No. 5 North Carolina, 69-61, Friday in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament in Greensboro Coliseum.
The Tar Heels (25-7) brought the game within four points with 2:02 to go, but South Carolina star Aliyah Boston helped maintain the Gamecocks’ lead — and put the contest away for good off a layup with 55 seconds to go.
South Carolina will play the winner of Friday's late game between No. 10 Creighton and No. 3 Iowa State.
Here’s what we learned about the Gamecocks.
Boston fights off Tar Heels’ late charge
Boston scored all of South Carolina’s 13 points in the fourth quarter to stave off an aggressive Tar Heels charge. UNC outscored the Gamecocks 16-13 in the final 10 minutes.
Deja Kelly, the Tar Heels’ leading scorer, made a full effort throughout the contest. She finished with 23 points on 9-of-18 shooting.
The Tar Heels went on a 7-0 run early in the fourth quarter to cut the Gamecocks’ lead, which was at 13 points with 9:16 to go, down to five with 6:33 left.
The Gamecocks went cold from the field for over four minutes throughout the fourth before Boston made a second-chance layup with 4:55 to go in the contest, bringing the Gamecocks’ lead back up to seven points.
South Carolina suffered from another rough shooting performance in the fourth, as Boston was the Gamecocks’ only scorer in the last 10 minutes, while UNC capitalized on late momentum. The Tar Heels brought the contest within four twice, but Boston was able to put the game away behind layups and free throws.
Stars light path to victory
Boston tallied her 27th straight double-double midway through the third quarter, making it to 11 points and 10 rebounds with 6:08 to go in the period. She finished the game with 28 points and 22 rebounds.
Zia Cooke had her best performance of the NCAA Tournament, scoring 15 points on 6-of-17 shooting. She went 3 of 7 from behind the arc and tallied two assists and two steals.
Destanni Henderson was efficient in the first half and finished the game with 13 points and a steal. Victaria Saxton gave a strong effort on both ends of the floor, finishing with six points, 13 rebounds, two blocks and a steal.
Gamecocks efficient from 3
South Carolina failed to lock North Carolina down from a defensive standpoint early, as the Gamecocks allowed the Tar Heels to go 56% from the field and score 23 points in the first quarter.
The Gamecocks locked down on the defensive end in the second quarter, allowing UNC just eight points, but they also used an efficient output from 3-point range to make up for a 39% overall shooting percentage before halftime.
South Carolina finished the first half going 55% (6 of 11) from behind the arc, with Henderson (3 of 6) and Cooke (3 of 5) leading the way toward a 39-31 advantage for the Gamecocks at halftime.
UNC’s shooting percentage lowered drastically before the half, dwindling to 41% in the first half after going 1 of 9 from the field in the second quarter.
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