Perhaps the biggest scare USC got during the regular season was a road game at Oxford, Mississippi against the Ole Miss Rebels where the Cocks won in overtime, 64-57.
That matchup got a part two in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament, and it is safe to say the second round did not require nearly as much sweating from the Gamecock faithful.
Top-ranked South Carolina (31-0) defeated Ole Miss (23-8) Saturday evening by the score of 80-51 to advance to the SEC Tournament final.
The Rebels were able to see some success against the Gamecocks the first time around because they had the benefit of a home crowd on top of size to match up on the boards and defend the paint/neutralize Boston and Cardoso.
Although Ole Miss continued to hold its own in the rebounding category (even grabbing more offensive boards than South Carolina), the Rebels did not have the same performance in the paint, surrendering 54 points in that area while only getting 20 of their own.
The thing that especially stayed the same was domination from South Carolina’s star guard.
Zia Cooke – after struggling against Arkansas in the quarterfinals – continued to burn Ole Miss, racking up 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting while also setting the tone on offense early.
In addition to Cooke, South Carolina had four other players with double-digit scoring (Boston with 10, Beal with 13, Cardoso with 12, Amihere with 17), each shooting at least 44%.
Where the Gamecocks really adjusted was defensively, holding Ole Miss to 29% from the field as a team on top of racking up 14 (!!!) blocks.
Angel Baker, specifically, gave South Carolina a hard time in the first meeting, scoring 17. On Saturday, the Gamecocks were able to hold her to nine points on 4-of-15 shooting with six of them coming in the first half.
Despite a slow start that saw the Rebels trailing 25-14 after the first quarter, Ole Miss also deserves some credit for never letting the game get truly out of hand until the very end.
The Cocks closed the game on a 12-0 run, which made the scoreboard look a whole lot worse than the result of what we saw on the court, but Ole Miss did not trail a quarter by more than four after the first and were actually leading the Cocks in the fourth until that closing burst, which helped South Carolina win the quarter 22-12.
In the end, Ole Miss could not keep up with South Carolina’s pace as the Cocks scored 17 fast break points, defend the paint, or handle USC’s second unit (which scored 37), and that is what ultimately led to this blowout after coming into today with so much hope.
South Carolina will look to add an SEC Tournament title to its resumé tomorrow after failing to do so last year as the final tips off at 3 p.m. against either Tennessee or LSU.