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NCAA WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP PRES. BY CAPITAL ONE - GREENSBORO REGION - 2ND ROUND - Colonial Center - Columbia, SC

South Carolina makes sixth consecutive Sweet 16

146 days ago
Associated Press
Photo: Gamecock Athletics

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- With 42 seconds left and South Carolina leading by one, coach Dawn Staley decided to put the game in the hands of her junior point guard Tyasha Harris.

She called a play named "Miami Vice" where Harris would use a screen to get moving toward the basket and make a decision to either shoot or pass.

Harris drove, kept the ball and banked a one-handed layup off the glass and drew a foul. She completed the 3-point play, making it a two-possession game and helping fourth-seeded South Carolina hold on to beat No. 5 Florida State 72-64 on Sunday to advance to the Sweet 16 for the sixth straight season.

In the past Staley said Harris might have deferred in those situations with better players around her. But not this time.

"I was real thankful that she decided to shoot the ball, take it to the basket strong," Staley said. "I was happy that she progressed in that moment to take that moment on."

Mikiah Herbert Harrigan scored 20 points, Alexis Jennings 16, Te'a Cooper 13 and Harris 11 for South Carolina (23-9), which has won two straight games since being upset by Arkansas in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament.

It's the third time in the past five seasons the Gamecocks have eliminated the Seminoles from the NCAA Tournament, beating them in the Elite Eight in 2015 and 2017.

"For me it's an amazing feeling knowing that we are keeping the tradition alive," Harris said. "We are still dancing and I love that. I know a lot of people would love to be our position."

Staley said she's extremely proud of how her team has battled through adversity this season.

"This year a lot of people didn't know how to take our team because we have been inconsistent throughout the year," Staley said. "But I'm super proud. It's about sustaining and competing and keeping your program in a position to compete for national championships."

Nicki Ekhomu scored 19 points and Kiah Gillespie had 15 points and 18 rebounds for Florida State (24-9).

Florida State lost despite outrebounding South Carolina 50-33 overall and grabbing 27 offensive rebounds -- seven of those by Gillespie.

Florida State coach Sue Semrau said her young team which has no seniors and nine freshmen and sophomores started to "feel the squeeze" as the game got tight in the final minute. There were also a few times they settled for shots they hadn't practiced, leading to run- outs for South Carolina.

But she left proud of her team, saying "I'm absolutely amazed as their resilience."

The Gamecocks made a concerted effort in the fourth quarter to get the ball inside to Jennings, who scored nine points from the low block in the game's final 10 minutes. South Carolina took the lead for good with 2:14 left when Cooper drove the lane and dished to Jennings, who scored and drew a foul for a three-point play for a 63-60 lead.

"Alexis Jennings did a great job at the end of the game getting the ball inside and she was tough to stop," Semrau said.

BIG PICTURE

Florida State: The Seminoles don't have a senior on the roster, so they have a bright future ahead and this year's tournament experience will only help them moving forward.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks appear to have regained some of their swagger but it will need to work on boxing out if it hopes to advance in the NCAA Tournament, especially if they face No. 1 Baylor in the Sweet 16.

BOUNCING BACK

Herbert Harrigan had a huge game off the bench for South Carolina after sitting out the first half of the team's round win against 13th seed Belmont because of disciplinary reasons. She finished 6 of 10 from the field and help stretch the Florida State defense with a series of midrange jumpers.

"Her shot is water," Harris said.

Added Staley: "She is a hard guard. She can put the ball on the floor. Her midrange is efficient enough to where you have to play her. And she's long, so she can block shots."

GILLESPIE'S BIG DAY

Gillespie never stopped fighting on the boards for Florida State. Of her 18 rebounds, seven were on the offensive glass as the Seminoles had 19 second chance points.

But Gillespie's frustration grew as it became apparent the Seminoles were going to lose.

With 9.8 seconds left she pounded the ball hard twice on the floor after disagreeing with a foul call, drawing a technical. South Carolina made three fouls shots to push the lead to eight and seal the game.

UP NEXT

The Gamecocks move on to face the winner of Monday's game between No. 1 seed Baylor and No. seed 8 California in the Sweet 16 in Greensboro, North Carolina.