The South Carolina Gamecocks used their size and skill in the post to put an end to Buffalo’s Cinderella magic, pulling away with a 79-63 win in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 in Albany, N.Y., on Saturday.
Buffalo came into the NCAA Tournament as somewhat of an afterthought, having never won a game in the event and seeded 11th after receiving an at-large bid. The Bulls then went on a tear, blowing out sixth-seeded South Florida and three-seed Florida State en route to their date with the Gamecocks.
In the first quarter, that March magic looked like it was still going strong for Buffalo, with an early 7-0 Bulls run staking them to a 17-16 lead at the end of the period. The Gamecocks bounced back to grab a 40-31 lead at the half, and entered the fourth quarter with a 55-48 advantage as the Bulls continued to stay within striking distance. But some clutch plays down the stretch from Doniyah Cliney and Ty Harris pushed the lead into double digits, and the clock struck midnight for the Bulls.
A’ja Wilson and Alexis Jennings each posted 20 points, with Wilson adding 13 rebounds for yet another double-double. The Gamecocks leaned heavily on their post play against the undersized Bulls, outrebounding them 48-21, though Buffalo guard Cierra Dillard looked like the best player on the court with a game-leading 29 points and was seemingly unguardable at times. Cliney (12) and Harris (10) rounded out the double-figuring scoring for South Carolina, which saw an 18-of-20 performance from the free-throw line but committed an incredible 26 turnovers that helped keep Buffalo in the game.
Up next: Back in the Elite 8 for the third time in four seasons, South Carolina will face the winner of UConn-Duke on Monday at 7 p.m. with a Final Four appearance on the line.