South Carolina was eliminated from the NCAA tournament Friday night with a loss to Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The Gamecocks got off to a slow start, with Syracuse scoring the first 4 points of the game and Mitchell picking up two fouls in the first 3 minutes of the game. Carolina finally got on the board on a pair of A'ja Wilson free throws just over 4 minutes into the first quarter.
Syracuse stayed in control throughout the first, answering back with a pair of threes after a Tina Roy three tied things up at 10-10 with 3 minutes left in the quarter. A three from Bianca Cuevas cut the Orange lead to 15-16 to end the first quarter. The Gamecocks managed to tie it up again at 20-20 early in the second quarter and finally took their first lead of the game on another three from Tina Roy. Carolina went to halftime with a solid 43-33 lead.
The Orange hung around throughout the third quarter, whittling the lead down to 50-56 as the teams headed to the fourth. Syracuse continued to narrow the gap and finally tied things up with 6 minutes left in the game. The Gamecocks and the Orange traded shots for the final few minutes until Syracuse went back up and stretched the lead to 5 points. The Gamecocks trimmed it back down to 68-71 with a minute and a half left, but just couldn't do enough to catch up and ultimately fell 72-80 to Syracuse.
South Carolina looked out of sorts for most of the game. The Gamecocks had 18 turnovers and while they got hot from outside for a few minutes in the second quarter, they ended up just 8 of 32 from three. Syracuse's Alexis Peterson led all scorers with 26 points.
Alaina Coates led the Gamecocks in points with 18 and in rebounds with 16. A'ja Wilson also had a double-double, with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Tina Roy was fantastic for the Gamecocks in the first half, scoring 17 points. However, like the rest of the team, she was unable to muster enough offense in the second half to save the season.
An early exit from the tournament is a disappointing way to send off a group of seniors who have made huge contributions to get the Gamecocks to the point where they're at. It's a testament to how far this program has come that a loss in the Sweet Sixteen is such a massive letdown. This one is going to sting for a while, as both the team and the fans had their sights set on bigger things, but the Gamecocks gave us a lot to cheer for this season and it's still easy to be proud of everything they accomplished.