Tiffany Mitchell scored 24 points, Alaina Coates added 13, and top-seeded South Carolina took a while to pull away from No. 16 seed Cal State Northridge in a 73-58 win on Sunday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
"We did what most number one seeds do, and that's win," said Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley.
South Carolina (28-4) were the new kids when it came to being a top seed in the NCAAs, garnering the achievement after never being higher than a No. 3 seed in the past. And while the Gamecocks didn't play poorly against the champions of the Big West Conference, it took far longer than expected to finally dispatch the pesky Matadors.
South Carolina outscored Northridge 27-11 at the free throw line and had 20 second-chance points.
It was the Gamecocks' first game in 15 days, and they had to get over that.
"Shake off the jitters, shake off the rust and also shake off not playing our best game, so I definitely think it helps," said Aleighsa Welsh, USC junior forward.
"I just think it's a new team it's a new atmosphere, so we had to come out here the first five minutes and do just that," said South Carolina junior center Elim Ibiam.
South Carolina responded to a late Matadors run that pulled them within six points with three minutes left in the game.
"We were poised and I think I was talking to Khadijah Sessions a lot I was just in her ear making sure she was organized and keeping our team organized," said Staley.
The Gamecocks play in the second round Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. EST against Oregon St. The winner advances to the Sweet 16.
"Everybody trying to obtain the same thing and it's anybody's game to win in March so we've just got to play like we know how to play," said South Carolina sophomore guard Asia Dozier.