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Gamecocks cruise past Mercer to reach NCAA Tournament’s second round

A win for USC and a milestone for Dawn Staley.

Mercer vs South Carolina Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The No. 1-seeded South Carolina Gamecocks tipped off the NCAA Tournament with a 79-53 win over Mercer, highlighted by a powerful performance from Aliyah Boston and Dawn Staley reaching her 500th win as a head coach.

Aside from the 16-seed Bears (19-7) briefly tying the game at 27 in the second quarter, this one was all Gamecocks. Boston, making her NCAAT debut, put up 20 points and 18 rebounds as the clear player of the game. Victaria Saxton also stood out for South Carolina, pouring in a career-high 20 points, and Zia Cooke had a strong second half showing to finish with 13.

Perhaps most crucially, Laeticia Amihere added a spark off the bench, contributing 11 points and eight rebounds. It’s a good sign for the Gamecocks, since they’ll be without bench anchor LeLe Grissett for the tournament after she suffered a leg injury in the SEC championship game.

As for Staley, she now owns a program-best 328 victories as South Carolina’s head coach and continues to pad her legacy as one of the game’s all-time greats.

The Gamecocks (23-4) will now face eighth-seeded Oregon State (12-7) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. The Beavers beat No. 9 Florida State 83-59 to advance.