South Carolina clinches Final Four berth
GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) - Aliyah Boston had 22 points and 10 rebounds, Zia Cooke scored 18 points and top-seeded South Carolina used its smothering defense to take control in the second quarter, outlasting second-seeded Maryland 86-75 on Monday night to reach its third straight Final Four.
Coach Dawn Staley's team improved to 36-0 this season with its 42nd straight victory dating to last year's NCAA title run. The Gamecocks are now two games away from repeating as champions and completing the 10th undefeated season in the women's game.
South Carolina will play Iowa and do-it-all star Caitlin Clark in the national semifinals in Dallas on Friday night.
The Gamecocks hugged and jumped when it was over. It's the fifth Final Four since 2015, all under Staley. She'll try for her third national title next week.
Boston, the 6-foot-5 senior, made 10 of 14 shots. The three-time All-American added five assists and blocked two shots.
Maryland (28-7) was routed at home, 81-56, by the Gamecocks last Nov. 11, but played without injured All-American Diamond Miller.
With a healthy Miller and an offense averaging nearly 80 points a game, the Terrapins were ready to take on the big, imposing Gamecocks. Maryland pushed the pace early, disrupting South Carolina's No. 1 defense and was ahead 21-15 as an edgy, pro-Gamecock crowd wasn't sure what it was watching.
South Carolina didn't panic. Cooke shook off an 0-for-3 start to score nine points. Boston was her steady self with 12 points in the half as the Gamecocks outscored the Terps 23-9 in the second quarter to lead 38-30 at halftime.
Maryland got two quick baskets after the break to cut South Carolina's lead to 48-42. But the Gamecocks answered with a 14-3 burst to take control for good.
Miller led the Terps, looking for their first trip to the Final Four since 2015, with 24 points.
Maryland shot 50% for the game, yet couldn't hold up down low against the Gamecocks. South Carolina outrebounded the Terps 48-26 and 25-7 on the offensive glass.
- South Carolina's win over Maryland marks the 36th victory of the season, setting a new program record, and earning its third-straight Final Four appearance.
- After a six-point deficit following the end of the first quarter, the Gamecocks' offense stepped it up in the following period and outscored the Terrapins 23-9 on 50.0 percent shooting.
- Aliyah Boston had her best game in the tournament thus far - grabbing her 82nd career double-double after scoring 22 points, 10 rebounds, and dishing out five assists...her layup halfway through the second quarter gave the Gamecocks back the lead, where they remained for the rest of the game.
- After a quiet first quarter, Zia Cooke turned on the boosters dropping nine points in each the second and third quarters to give herself her 29th game in double-figures with 18 points and eight boards.
- Brea Beal had a stat-stuffing night, tallying a career-high six assists with three steals and two blocks, in addition to posting a new NCAA tournament career-high 16 points, 13 of which coming in the final quarter alone after hitting a 3 and scoring the final four points of the game.