After letting a late ten-point lead slip away, the South Carolina Gamecocks were able to find a way into the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight season. A’ja Wilson and the Carolina defense owned the final minute for USC to knock off the Arizona State Sun Devils 71-68.
Carolina held a five point edge after the first quarter with Kaela Davis and Wilson leading the way. They found themselves trailing toward the end of the second as Arizona State dominated the final five minutes of the quarter. Led by Sophie Brunner, the Sun Devils took the quarter 24-14 to hold a 39-33 halftime lead.
The third quarter was back and forth as Carolina was able to eventually close the gap. The Sun Devils jumped out to an 11 point lead early in the quarter through a Sabrina Brines three pointer. The Gamecocks battled back and cut the lead to two through a Doniyah Cliney layup in the final seconds.
Carolina started the fourth strong to take their first lead since early in the second quarter. Kaela Davis hit a pair of free throws following a technical foul on ASU’s head coach, Charli Turner Thorne. Allisha Gray then tallied a three point play with the technical possession to push the lead to eight. Kaela Davis then scored to push the lead to 10 with five minutes left.
Arizona State did not go away though as Reili Richardson nailed back to back three pointers to cut it to four. Kelsey Moos then scored to cut it to two before Brines hit another three to give ASU the lead under two minutes remaining. The Gamecocks regained the lead through Wilson putting back her own miss to make it 69-68 with under a minute remaining.
Carolina was able to get a stop and ASU sent Tyasha Harris to the line. Harris missed both shots and the Sun Devils got the ball with the shot clock turned off. Davis stole the ball and called a time-out with 18.5 on the clock. Wilson went to the foul line for USC and hit both to put them up three with 15 seconds left. Carolina deflected the ball out of bounds and ASU in-bounded with 2.1 seconds left. Brunner put up a prayer and missed wide as time expired to give the Gamecocks a three point win, advancing to the Sweet 16.
Wilson led the way for the Gamecocks with a double-double, scoring 21 and gathering 11 rebounds. Davis (20) and Gray (11) joined her in double figures. The Gamecocks won the game at the foul-line, hitting 23-28 free throws. Arizona State only managed 15 points from the charity stripe.
The Sun Devils were led by Brunner who finished with 20 points. Richardson (16) and Haines (12) joined her in double figures. Haines and Richardson combined to hit five three pointers, including three in the final three minutes.
There is bound to be concern about the status of Allisha Gray for the remainder of the tournament. Gray missed the final few minutes of the game after appearing to re-aggravate an old ACL injury from high school and had to be carried off the court. With Alaina Coates already lost for the rest of the year, Carolina can ill afford to go down two starters.
Next up for the Gamecocks will be the winner of Quinnipiac and Miami. Those two square off tomorrow. Carolina will take them on in the Sweet 16 in Stockton, California.