Dawn Staley achieved another first for South Carolina Sunday afternoon, beating SEC blueblood Tennessee in the conference tournament finals to bring the tournament title to Columbia for the first time. The win likely wrapped up a second-straight number-one seed in the NCAA Tournament for the Gamecocks.
Tennessee gave Carolina a tough game, particularly in the first half, when it led by as much as five. However, the Gamecocks ended the first half on a run to take a three-point lead to the locker room. The Gamecocks then rode hot shooting and great defense to a dominant second half. After the two teams shared the regular-season conference title, this 16-point victory over the fifth-ranked Lady Vols will leave little doubt regarding which of these two teams is better, barring a successful revenge opportunity for UT in the national tournament.
Tiffany Mitchell validated her conference player-of-the-year award by scoring 17 in the contest. Another player who shined this afternoon was Khadijah Sessions. Sessions's inconsistent outside shooting has been one of the Gamecocks' weak points throughout the season, but the junior point guard came through today with 3-4 shooting from beyond the arc. Her offensive performance kept the Lady Vols honest on defense.
The Gamecocks will now await notification regarding their destination in the Big Dance, where they'll be favorites to make their first-ever Final Four.