The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Gamecocks advance to Sweet 16

3173 days ago
Associated Press
Photo: South Carolina Athletics

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Tiffany Mitchell and Alaina Coates each scored 14 points and No. 1 seed South Carolina built a big first-half lead and cruised to its third Sweet 16 in four years with a 97-68 NCAA Tournament victory over Syracuse on Sunday night.

Aleighsa Welch added 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Gamecocks (32-2), who turned an anticipated tight rematch into a runaway by halftime.

Welch had 11 points and Asia Dozier hit three of her four 3-pointers in the opening period for the Gamecocks, who used a 21-5 run to take control.

Syracuse trailed by 28 at halftime and never got within 20 points.

Alexis Peterson had 23 points to lead the Orange (22-10), who gave the Gamecocks one of their toughest games last November before losing 67-63 at the Junkanoo Jam.

But in front of 10,485 fans at home, South Carolina had no problem moving on.

South Carolina had six players score in double figures. Along with Mitchell, Coates and Welch, Southeastern Conference freshman of the year A'ja Wilson scored 13, while Dozier and backup point guard Bianca Cuevas had 12 apiece.

It was the most points the Orange had allowed since losing 101-64 at Notre Dame last year.

Cornelia Fondren had 16 points, although Syracuse's three-guard lineup of Peterson, Fondren and Brianna Butler was a combined 16 of 49 shooting.

Syracuse had stifled South Carolina's inside game last November, leading by double digits in the second half before falling 67-63.

The Orange couldn't wait for the rematch since the NCAA pairings came out. Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman planned on packing the paint once again to thwart the Gamecocks tallest players.

He said the Gamecocks had to take and make outside shots to get by his defense -- and that's what Dozier did.

South Carolina's junior hit three 3-pointers in the first five minutes -- the Gamecocks had three in Friday night's opener against Savannah State -- to build a 14-7 lead and force Syracuse to play perimeter defense.

That's when the Gamecocks went inside any chance they could.

Welch hit all five of her shots while 6-foot-5 Wilson and 6-4 Coates were a combined 4 of 7 from the field for 15 points.

South Carolina had 20 points in the paint all game in the first meeting. It had 26 in the opening half this time.

South Carolina led 53-25, Syracuse's largest halftime deficit of the season.


Syracuse: The Orange have averaged more than seven 3-pointers a game this season, but have not reached that total in the past three games. They had five in a regular-season win over Clemson, six in an ACC Tournament loss to Wake Forest and six in defeating Nebraska 72-69 in the NCAA Tournament opener Friday night. They struggled from 3 in the opening half as they fell behind. Syracuse finished with eight 3-pointers, most coming after the game was decided.

South Carolina: Forward Aleighsa Welch tied a school record with her 134th game played for the Gamecocks, matching the mark of Sheila Foster set from 1979-82 ... The Gamecocks shot 64.2 percent in beating Savannah State, their best showing in 13 seasons at Colonial Life Arena ... South Carolina shot 62.1 percent in the opening half, its third straight period shooting 50 percent or better.


Syracuse season has ended.

South Carolina plays either Ohio State or North Carolina in the Sweet 16 next Friday night in Greensboro, North Carolina.