Gamecocks' late momentum bests Bulls in second round
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Zia Cooke scored 21 points and Aliyah Boston had her 81st career double double as top-seeded South Carolina shook off a slow start to power past eighth-seeded South Florida and into the Sweet 16 with a 76-45 victory Sunday.
The Gamecocks improved to 34-0 with their 40th straight win overall and moved four victories away from a second straight national title. They'll head to Greenville, where they won the Southeastern Conference Tournament two weeks ago, to play for a spot in the Final Four.
Boston, the program career record holder for double doubles, finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds, coming out of her final game at home to a huge ovation.
South Florida (27-7) entered looking for a program-record 28th win this season and its first berth in the Sweet 16, but after a feisty start, couldn't hang with the Gamecocks.
Elena Tsineke, just 5-of-16 shooting in Friday's OT win over Marquette, scored seven of the Bulls' first 10 points on the way to a 16-12, first quarter lead in front of an edgy crowd on South Carolina's home court.
But Boston, the All-American and two-time Southeastern Conference player of the year, took things over in the second period.
Her inside basket put South Carolina ahead to stay 21-20 as it outscored the Bulls 21-13 in the period. And Boston wasn't just active offensively, she got after it on defense twice diving on the floor to chase free basketballs.
Late in the second quarter, the 6-foot-5 Boston stopped a drive by Maria Alvarez near the basket, then ran out to the sideline to double team Emma Johansson into a turnover.
The Gamecocks, outrebounded 10-9 the first 10 minutes, took control of the glass after that, finishing with a comfortable edge of 52-28.
South Florida made just five of its 28 shots the final 20 minutes and was held to its lowest point-total this season, 25 below its season's average.
Tsinkeke led the Bulls with 20 points. Fankam Mendjiadeu was held to just four points on 2-of-9 shooting.
- South Carolina's win over South Florida marked the 400th career win at South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley.
- The Gamecocks will head to the Sweet 16 for the 12th time in program history, including each of the last nine tournaments.
- Defense held up to its reputation, holding the Bulls to just 13.3 percent shooting in the third quarter (2-of-15).
- Zia Cooke exploded offensively, tallying her eighth game with 20 or more points...12 of her 21 came in the second half on 50.0 percent shooting from the field, including knocking down a three as part of a 13-4 run in the final quarter.
- Aliyah Boston had the first three points on the board for the Gamecocks and ended the game with her 81st career double-double after securing 11 rebounds and 11 points, nine of which came in the first half.
- Laeticia Amihere had a strong fourth quarter, scoring eight of her 11 points, including six in a 12-0 run to post her ninth double-figure game of the season.
- Victaria Saxton was a blocking machine, tallying a team-high of four with two coming in each half.