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South Carolina figured out one way to solve its fourth-quarter woes is to hold the opponent to the fewest points ever in a woman’s NCAA Tournament game.
Aliyah Boston scored 10 points and had 12 rebounds to lead the top-seeded Gamecocks to a 79-21 victory over Howard on Friday.
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The 21 points for the Bison broke the record held by Kansas State which scored 26 in a loss to UConn in 2012. The Gamecocks (30-2) held Howard (21-10) to a NCAA Tournament record low four points in the first half as they took a 44-4 lead.
“We defend. We were pretty locked in,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said.
It was a total mismatch, even for a No. 1 versus No. 16 seed. The Gamecocks had 30 offensive rebounds to just six for Howard. The Bison turned the ball over 20 times and were outscored 38 to 8 in the paint.
Thirteen of the fourteen South Carolina players who got in the game scored.
But there still are things for Staley to worry about. The defense helped mask an off shooting night for the tournament’s overall top seed. The Gamecocks shot 35% from the field and just 8-fo-38 on 3-pointers.
“I know we can’t have another game shooting-wise like we did and expect to win basketball games. We’ve got to find a way to get the ball to go in the hole for us,” Staley said.
South Carolina has been struggling to finish games. They lost to Kentucky 64-62 in the Southeastern Conference final earlier this month after being outscored 21-7 in the fourth quarter..
Up 60-8 over Howard at the end of the third quarter, freshman Bree Hall said the team was reminded that champions finish games strong.
“We’ve got to keep building on this lead. We’ve got to go out there and play hard and keep doing what we’re doing. The last, recent games, we haven’t been finishing the fourth quarter,” Hall said.
South Carolina won that final quarter 19-13.
The Gamecocks didn’t hold Howard scoreless in any quarter. South Carolina did that in 2021, shutting out Texas in the fourth quarter of a 62-34 win in last year’s NCAA Tournament regional final.
Iyanna Warren led Howard with eight points.
Howard coach Ty Grace told her team now that they have proven they can be conference champions, they can pay attention to how South Carolina handled them Friday and see how to take the next step.
“It’s only up from here,” Grace said.
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Boston picked up her 25th straight double-double playing just over 18 minutes.
When the All-American pulled down her 10th rebound with 7:10 to go in the third quarter, she got one of the biggest cheers of the day on her home floor.
Boston didn’t play the final 14 minutes.
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For Howard, spending four days at South Carolina, practicing on their floor and hanging our near Staley and her players was amazing.
“It was the opportunity of a lifetime that not many teams, not many people get to experience. We got to play South Carolina on their home floor,” Iyanna Warren said. “We were just happy and excited for the opportunity.”
Grace said she enjoyed getting to see Staley and her program up close. Grace was one of a number of Black women coaches who Staley sent pieces of South Carolina’s 2017 championship net.
“We won an NCAA Tournament game, which no one at Howard had ever done,” Grace said.
Howard: The Bison do go home with their first NCAA Tournament win, a 55-51 victory over Incarnate Word in Wednesday’s opening round. It’s the first tournament win for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference since South Carolina State won a play-in game in 1983.
South Carolina: The 21 points matched the fewest South Carolina has allowed in its history. The Gamecocks have had three periods where they haven’t allowed a point, but didn’t add to that total Friday.
The Gamecocks play No. 8 seed Miami on Friday. The Hurricanes beat South Florida 78-66 earlier in the day.