GREENSBORO, NC — There could only be one victor in the Battle of the Carolinas.
South Carolina, hungry for its first national championship title in five years, edged out North Carolina in the round of 16 of the NCAA Women’s Tournament, beating the Tar Heels, 69-61, on Friday night.
While the Tar Heels have been on a disruptive path in the Greensboro area, sending fourth-seeded Arizona packing their bags on their home turf in the second round, the young team has failed to live up to the depth of Gamecocks. Aliyah Boston, the star junior forward who has been the centerpiece of her team, had her 27th straight double-double with 28 points and 22 rebounds, and senior forward Victaria Saxton delivered when her team needed help the most. she with 14 rebounds and two key blocks. .
Boston got all 13 points from South Carolina in the fourth quarter.
But victory did not come easily. South Carolina struggled to keep up with the fast Tar Heels in the first half as they repeatedly rolled down, staying low and fast in the lane. The Gamecocks allowed 23 points in the first quarter. North Carolina second guard Deja Kelly danced around the South Carolina defense to lead his team with 23 points.
But Destanni Henderson and Zia Cooke responded with the speed and scored the Gamecocks needed to stay afloat. Henderson finished with 13 points and Cooke scored 15, ending the second quarter on the back after a successful jump. When they missed a field goal, Boston came in and finished it with two, three, sometimes four Tar Heels almost hanging from him.
“It was a tough game – hats off to North Carolina for playing an extremely efficient basketball game,” coach Dawn Staley said. “They pushed us to the limit.”
The game was the third Sweet 16 matchup between the programs since 2014 and North Carolina’s first third-round appearance since 2015, when it lost to South Carolina. The Gamecocks next face the winner of Friday night’s game between Iowa State and Creighton.
Dive Deeper into NCAA Tournaments
Gamecock and Tar Heel fans packed Greensboro Coliseum, just a three-hour drive from Columbia, South Carolina, and an hour’s drive from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, creating a sea of clear blue and of red against the neon green and pink sneakers of South Carolina.
The Gamecocks were looking to redeem themselves after losing to Stanford last year in the semi-finals by two points. But heading into Friday’s game, a Gamecock win was far from a safe bet. While their fierce defense, one of the best in the tournament, denied their competition time and time again, the Gamecocks offense struggled to convert drives into points.
“It shows that it’s only going to get harder and harder,” Cooke said after the game. “We kept our foot on the accelerator the whole time.”
— Remy Tumin
Texas passes Ohio State in a physical game.
SPOKANE, Wash. — Texas advanced to the Round of 16 for the second straight tournament with a 66-63 victory over Ohio State on Friday, helped by a decisive play by senior guard Joanne Allen-Taylor and team post players Lauren Ebo and Aaliyah Moore.
The Buckeyes’ top two scorers all season, Jacy Sheldon and Taylor Mikesell, combined for 36 points, not enough to beat the Longhorns’ physical defense.
The Longhorns took an early lead, staying ahead until Texas rookie point guard Rori Harmon fouled twice in the first quarter when a charge and block call didn’t come in quick succession.
From that point, it began to look like Ohio State could beat Texas at its own game, pressing the Longhorns from baseline to baseline every time they got the ball in. Texas coach Vic Schaefer said the press “is just who we are” before the game, but it was the Buckeyes who threatened turnovers every time the Longhorns had to take the ball in half court.
The Buckeyes finished the first quarter with a 4-point lead thanks in large part to Sheldon, who continued to find ways to score even when shooting opportunities were hard to come by.
Allen-Taylor, who finished the first half with 13 points and added 4 in the second, got Texas into the locker room with a lead by beefing up to the basket with just three seconds left and leaving with the bucket and the fault. The fact that she was able to escape the first half without a single personal foul was particularly remarkable, given how physical the game was at the time. The teams combined for just one successful 3-pointer in the first half, and the players had to fight for every attempt, whether from beyond the arc or inside.
The Longhorns found some momentum midway through the third quarter, forcing turnovers and scoring them while earning second-chance points. But Ohio State main guard Braxtin Miller had all but one shot she attempted this quarter, scoring 8 points and keeping Texas from getting comfortable.
Still, the Buckeyes began to look a little less energized and began laying off their all-court press. Going into the final frame, Texas had extended their lead to 5 points.
Texas would lead by as much as 10 points, until Ohio State forced a series of turnovers that brought the game back within reach with just four minutes left. The Longhorns’ lead was reduced to 1 point when the game clock ran out, and the Buckeyes had the ball. But Texas was able to use the defense that has been its calling card throughout the season, force a turnover and make its free throws to seal the victory.