In life and basketball, you need to learn in order to grow and eventually accomplish your goals.
When you don’t drop a basketball game in the span of a season and some, those chances to grow aren’t exactly plentiful, but the Gamecocks were able to get tested on Sunday, overcome some adversity and still end up with the W.
Top-ranked South Carolina (34-0) defeated the eighth-seeded South Florida Bulls (27-7) Sunday afternoon at Colonial Life Arena by the score of 76-45 to advance to the Sweet Sixteen in the women’s NCAA Tournament.
Yes, USC ended up with a dub by a rather wide margin, but it was not always that way for the home team.
The Cocks had to fight through a tough first quarter that saw them trail 16-12 thanks to some missed opportunities near the basket, five turnovers, an uncharacteristically poor performance from the defensive end and a stretch that saw only one made field goal from South Carolina over the final four minutes.
Although the Gamecocks eventually took the lead in the second quarter, the real adjustments were made to open the second half.
The defense really stepped up, allowing only two field goals through just under one and a half quarters, the Gamecocks started to pull away in the battle of the boards (eventually out-rebounding the Bulls 55 to 28) and, once again, South Carolina went on a run – this time a 25-5 stretch spanning from just under eight to play in the third to about five and a half to play in the fourth to transform a 33-31 game into a 58-36 blowout.
The Gamecocks succeeded in making South Florida’s offensive game one-dimensional with only two field goals coming in the second half by someone not named Elena Tsineke, who finished with a team-high 20 points for USF.
And who could forget Zia Cooke, who scored nine of her team-high 21 points in the decisive third quarter.
The best bench in the country once against made its mark as well with Laeticia Amihere and Bree Hall leading the second unit in this one, scoring 10 and 7 points respectively.
Despite taking somewhat of a back seat to Cooke, Aliyah Boston still finished with a double-double, racking up 11 points and 11 boards in 29 minutes.
What started as a possible scare in front of the home fans transformed into an impressive W against a great team that had one of its best years in school history. The Gamecocks were even able to create some momentum that can perhaps follow them into the next round.
Next up on the docket is a second trip to Greenville on the season for the Sweet Sixteen where South Carolina will be playing either Oklahoma or UCLA this Saturday with an Elite 8 berth on the line.