Start time: 7:30pm ET
TV: ESPN2 (Dave O’Brian, Doris Burke, Kara Lawson, Holly Rowe) | Live Stream: WatchESPN.com
Radio: 107.5 The Game in Columbia (Brad Muller) | Live Audio: Gamecock IMG Sports Network
Just two years after making the Final Four and suffering an agonizing one-point loss to Notre Dame, the South Carolina Gamecocks are back in the final four seeking their first national championship game appearance in program history.
Standing in between the Gamecocks and what seems to be an inevitable rematch with the UConn Huskies are the Stanford Cardinal — the 32-5 Pac-12 champions who beat Notre Dame in the Elite Eight to find themselves in Dallas.
The last time these two teams played was Dec. 19, 2012. The Gamecocks were in their fifth year under Dawn Staley and were beginning to blossom into a national power, while Stanford was coming off a stretch where they had made five final fours in a row.
Led by Ieasia Walker the Gamecocks would make a strong push in the second half in Colonial Life Arena, but would ultimately fall 53-49 to the then No. 1 ranked Cardinal. Now we’ll finally get a rematch, but while Stanford remains a blue blood South Carolina has morphed from a scrappy underdog to a national power in the four plus years since that game.
Stanford is led by two key seniors, forward Erica McCall and guard Karlie Lou Samuelson — the elder sister of UConn stud Katie Lou Samuelson. McCall averages 14.4 points and 8.9 boards a game, and isn’t just a threat in the paint. At six-foot-three she’s capable of playing 18-feet away from the basket and can hit the occasional open three.
Samuelson on the other hand shoots a 48 percent clip from downtown and has been the Cardinal’s go-to player in crunch time. Flanking Samuelson has been junior guard Brittany McPhee, who averages 13.4 points per game and is a strong finisher at the rim on drives.
When is was announced Alaina Coates wouldn’t play in the tournament, there was some skepticism on whether or not the Gamecocks would be able to make a substantial run. But A’ja Wilson’s 19.8 points per game and 62.8 percent shooting clip has helped cover for Coates’ loss.
Since throwing up a 2-10 clunker against UNC-Ashville in the opening round, Kaela Davis has averaged 23.7 points per game and has given the back court a boost the Gamecocks haven’t quite seen this season.