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SEC WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT - SEMIFINAL - Verizon Arena - North Little Rock, AR

Gamecocks advance to first championship

1719 days ago
Associated Press

Game Notes | Box Score | Photo Gallery | South Carolina Quotes | LSU Quotes

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Alaina Coates had 16 points to help No. 3 South Carolina rally in the second half and reach its first Southeastern Conference Tournament championship game with a 74-54 win over LSU on Saturday.

The top-seeded Gamecocks (29-2) trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half, but they were 18 of 23 (78.3 percent) from the field in the second while winning their first SEC tournament semifinal game in three chances.

Tina Roy added 15 points for South Carolina, which was upset as the top seed by Kentucky in the tournament semifinals last season.

The Gamecocks will face the Kentucky-Tennessee winner in the championship game on Sunday.

Raigyne Moncrief had 20 points to lead the Lady Tigers (17-13), while Dashawn Harden added 19 -- including 17 in the first half. LSU was trying to reach its first tournament championship game since 2012.

The Lady Tigers, hoping to reach their fourth straight NCAA Tournament under coach Nikki Caldwell, led 35-31 early in the second half after a drive by Harden.

However, the Gamecocks followed with a 26-7 run to go up 56-42 and put an emphatic finish on what had been a struggle for much of the game.

After opening 1 of 6 from the field, Roy hit four straight 3-pointers in the second half -- including a banked shot from the left side of the floor to put South Carolina up 60-43. She finished 5 of 10 from behind the arc.

Aleighsa Welch had 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Gamecocks, the back-to-back SEC regular-season champions, while Coates added eight rebounds and was 8 of 11 from the field.

The Lady Tigers lost by 24 points in each of their two defeats to South Carolina earlier this season, but they led by as many as 11 in the first half before settling for a 31-27 halftime lead.

Harden spearheaded the surprising surge, scoring the first nine points for LSU and hitting all five of her first-half 3-pointers -- finishing with 17 points in the half.

The Lady Tigers were 12-of-28 (42.9 percent) shooting overall in the first half, while the Gamecocks -- the SEC's top-shooting team -- were 11 of 31 (35.5 percent) from the field. Tiffany Mitchell, the two-time league Player of the Year, was scoreless in the half after missing all four of her shots.

TIP-INS

LSU: The Lady Tigers rose from 70th to 58th in the NCAA's RPI standings following their quarterfinal win over Texas A&M, and many projections have them reaching the NCAA Tournament despite their lackluster overall record. They did, however, finish the regular season 10-6 in the SEC -- including a pair of wins over Texas A&M and one over No. 12 Kentucky.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks were making their third semifinal appearance in the last four years. They were upset by Kentucky 68-58 last year as the top seed and lost to second-seeded Tennessee 74-58 in 2012.

UP NEXT

LSU must wait to hear its postseason destination.

South Carolina faces the Kentucky-Tennessee winner in the SEC championship game on Sunday.