South Carolina falls short in semifinal battle vs. Iowa
The South Carolina women's basketball team ended its historic 2022-23 season with a 77-73 loss to Iowa in the NCAA Women's Final Four semifinal Friday night in Dallas.
The loss snapped a 42-game winning streak for the defending national champion Gamecocks, who were a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament and also the nation's No. 1-ranked team all season. They won their final six games last season to win the national title and had gone 36-0 this season prior to Friday night, including going 16-0 in the SEC regular season and then breezing through the SEC Tournament to capture that championship.
Zia Cooke's 24 points led the Gamecocks, and Kamilla Cardoso points 14 points and 14 rebounds in a game that featured eight lead changes and no lead for either team larger than nine points.
But South Carolina had a difficult time slowing Iowa star Caitlin Clark, who poured in a game-high 41 points and also added six rebounds and eight assists.
The Gamecocks trailed early but rallied in the second quarter, despite being without four-time All-American Aliyah Boston who picked up her second foul just 8:22 into the first period. Cardoso and Laeticia Amihere led the charge off the bench, complementing a nine-point second quarter from Cooke.
With the Hawkeyes leading 24-15 early in the second quarter, Amihere powered through a three-point play, Cardoso picked up a block and Cooke finished an and-1 to pull the Gamecocks within three at 24-21 with 8:17 to go in the period.
Cardoso and Amihere combined for a 7-0 surge late in the quarter, and Cooke hit a leaner late to get South Carolina within one at halftime, 38-37.
Iowa surged out of the break. Cardoso was relentless on the glass and inside offensively, but the Hawkeyes went inside as will with Monika Czinano scoring Iowa's last six points to stake a 59-55 lead heading into the final 10 minutes.
South Carolina was the aggressor early in the fourth with Raven Johnson burying her second 3-pointer of the game in the opening minute on a kickout from Boston. After an Iowa turnover, Boston then put the Gamecocks on top for the first time at 60-59.
Iowa reclaimed the lead moments later, but the game see-sawed back and forth. Johnson buried another three to close within one at 69-68 with 4:25 to play, but the Gamecocks could not get over the hump as Iowa sealed the win at the free throw line.
- South Carolina ends the season with a program-record 36 wins, including nine against ranked opponents to continue an SEC-record 23 straight wins over ranked foes.
- The Gamecock bench did its usual damage, outscoring Iowa's bench 38-6, and South Carolina won the paint battle 46-38.
- South Carolina's rebounding power was out in full force, nearly doubling Iowa 49-25, with 26 offensive boards compared to the Hawkeye's 5.
- Cooke had an incredible first half, posting 18 of her 24 points and scoring 11 of the team's first 15 for her ninth 20+ point game of the season. Kamilla Cardoso stepped up, posting her ninth double-double of the year after shooting 7-of-9 from the field for 14 points and grabbing 14 boards, eight of which coming in the second half alone.
- Raven Johnson had a career night, posting a new NCAA tournament high 13 points including three 3s, with two coming in the final quarter bringing the Gamecocks within one.
- The Gamecocks' work on the glass was the best in program history, setting season records for total rebounds (1,830), which are the second-most in SEC history, 620 offensive boards, 1151 defensive boards, 49.5 rebounding average and a +20.4 rebounding margin, which is the second-best in NCAA history.
- South Carolina set a new NCAA record with 326 blocked shots and 8.8 blocks per game.
Iowa, a 3-seed in the tournament and ranked No. 3 nationally, moves on to face another SEC team and another 3-seed in LSU, which earned a spot in Sunday's 3 p.m. national championship game by virtue of a 79-72 Final Four semifinal victory over Virginia Tech in Friday night's other Final Four semifinal in Dallas. Sunday's game will be televised on ABC.