A sweet result sends Carolina to the next round

A sweet result sends Carolina to the next round
South Carolina forward Laeticia Amihere (15) drives to the basket between Oregon State forward Taylor Jones, left, and guard Talia Von Oelhoffen (22) during the first half of a college basketball game in the second round of the women's NCAA tournament at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Tuesday, March 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Source: AP Photo/Eric Gay/AP)

San Antonio, TX (WIS) - Carolina’s second-quarter surge leads to a sweet result in Texas. The Gamecocks upend Oregon State on Tuesday night from the second round of the NCAA Tournament, 59-42.

The win earns head coach Dawn Staley her eighth trip to the Sweet 16 with Carolina, seventh in a row. It marks the 11th overall appearance in program history.

“This is a huge lift off of our shoulders,” said Staley. “That was a hard game. Oregon State is a really good efficient basketball team. If you allow them to do what they set out to do, they’re very good at it. I thought we found a way to disrupt. I don’t think our players wanted to go back to the hotel and pack. A lot of them this is their first time being in the Sweet 16 or being in the NCAA Tournament.”

Neither team established itself offensively in the opening minutes. Carolina endured two separate three-minute stretches without a made field goal, shooting 28% in the first quarter. It resulted in a slim 14-13 lead.

“We wanted to continue to move the ball,” said Gamecock sophomore forward Aliyah Boston. “We needed to slow it down at times. We were moving fast. Keep pushing the ball in transition, but making sure we’re executing and continue to keep up our defensive intensity.”

As bad as it might have felt for Carolina, OSU had it much worse.

The Beavers ran into a buzz saw in the second quarter. Carolina’s defense flustered Oregon State. The Gamecocks closed the frame on a 14-2 run that lasted the final 6:47. Carolina did most of the damage with Boston on the bench.

Carolina outscored OSU 16-5 in that quarter to carry a 12-point advantage to the locker room, 30-18.

The 18 points were the fewest the Beavers’ scored in any half this season.

Oregon State entered the showdown as the top three-point field goal percentage team nationally. In the first half, the Beavers connected on one-of-nine from beyond the arc. Add in nine OSU turnovers in 20 minutes, and the Gamecocks were in command.

Carolina’s two starting guards went without a made bucket in the first half of its first-round matchup with Mercer. Against Oregon State, Zia Cooke and Destanni Henderson asserted themselves offensively, combining for 14 first-half points. Both finished scoring in double-figures (Cooke 10, Henderson 12).

The Beavers attempted to pack the paint to try to limit Carolina’s inside presence. It failed, with the Gamecocks scoring 34 in the paint. Also, they made 18 trips to the free-throw line, making 14 FTs.

Boston proved once again why she’s a finalist for the year’s national player and defensive player of the year awards. Boston set the tone and dominated inside to the tune of 11 first-half points. She finished with 19 points and seven rebounds.

The third quarter started the way the second ended, with Carolina dictating the tempo on both ends.

A 7-0 Gamecock run lifted the lead, 43-21, midway through the frame. SC outscored OSU 39-16 in the 2nd & 3rd quarters combined.

Carolina maintained control the rest of the way. OSU was held to 32% shooting for the entire game, 16% from the 3-point range.

Brea Beal and Laeticia Amihere put together performances that should not go unnoticed.

Beal, unselfish in her play, will pass up open looks to play within the offense’s structure. She maintains her hustle, and it shows. She corraled 11 rebounds against the Beavers to lead the Gamecocks.

“You can’t function as a team if people don’t accept their roles,” Staley said. “A lot of times, nobody wants the role Brea Beal plays for us. That is to lock down our opponents’ best offensive guard. Sometimes that is sacrificing your shot for a better shot. The truth of the matter is pro teams are looking at that. They are looking at players that can be that spark off the bench. That do not mind getting in there, getting rebounds, and getting stops. She is setting herself up to be a great pro.”

Amihere, emerging as a star playing first off the bench, flashed her athleticism once more. She contributed on both ends, scoring eight points and collecting nine rebounds.

Victaria Saxton added five blocks in 31 minutes of play.

South Carolina next faces Georgia Tech in the Sweet 16.

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