It’s a sweet feeling, no matter what - SC stifles Miami to return to Sweet 16

South Carolina players celebrate a 3-pointer during the first half of a second-round game...
South Carolina players celebrate a 3-pointer during the first half of a second-round game against Miami in the NCAA college basketball tournament, Sunday, March 20, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)(Sean Rayford | AP)
Published: Mar. 20, 2022 at 5:01 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 20, 2022 at 5:03 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - It’s a sweet feeling, no matter what. Top-ranked South Carolina stifles Miami to return to the Sweet 16 for the ninth time under head coach Dawn Staley. The Gamecocks bounce the Hurricanes 49-33 to advance in the Greensboro Region.

The 49 total points were the fewest scored by Carolina all season. Carolina was held to under 30% shooting from the field.

Carolina’s shooting power was under scrutiny entering Sunday’s showdown. In the game’s opening minutes, both Zia Cooke and Destanni Henderson knocked down triples, trying to prove to Miami they’re ready to shoot.

But the precision quickly faded with the Hurricanes swarming ball pressure. The Gamecocks turned it over five times in the first quarter, making only four of its 14 shot attempts (28.6% FG).

What was never in question was the Gamecocks’ defense. Carolina’s relentless spirit in guarding the Hurricanes forced challenging shot attempts and poor passes. Miami only connected on three of its 14 shots, turning it over four times.

The Gamecocks’ best look in the first occurred shortly after Laeticia Amihere checked into the game. Miami attempted to trap her in the paint, and Amihere quickly dished it to Aliyah Boston, running toward the rim. Boston strolled in for the uncontested layup to make it 10-7 Carolina, with 1:09 to go in the first. That’s the score the first quarter would close with.

Cooke made her second three-point bucket early in the 2nd quarter, making it 13-7 with 8:24 to play. However, Cooke’s hot hand was sent to the bench when she picked up her second foul 29 seconds later.

The Gamecock offense was out of sorts, with only three players finding the scoresheet more than 15 minutes in. Still, no signs of panic from Carolina missing some outstanding looks around the rim.

The Gamecocks’ first spark from the bench was Destiny Littleton. She made an immediate impact when she stepped onto the floor. Less than a minute in, Littleton canned a triple with the shot clock running down, with 4:01 to play in the 2nd quarter, 18-9 Gamecocks. Littleton was the first outside the Carolina big 3 to make a bucket in the game.

Another big bucket came in the paint when Kamilla Cardoso fought through contact for the hoop and the harm. The old fashion three-point play boosted the Gamecock lead to 23-9, with 1:12 remaining in the second.

While the offense struggled, the defense silenced any potential storm. The Hurricanes had no answers on how to dissect the Gamecock defense. They failed to make a single basket the entire second quarter while turning it over seven times in the frame.

Carolina’s offense appeared to have turned a corner early in the third. Cooke and Brea Beal made buckets two minutes into the frame to give Carolina a 15-point advantage.

But another scoring drought quickly ensued. Carolina went three minutes without a point, missing six shots in a row by the media timeout with 4:59 remaining.

The drought ended when Cardoso, surrounded by Hurricanes, used her height and dropped it off glass for two. The paint points lifted the lead to 29-15 with 4:11 left. And she kept the intensity on the other end of the floor, swatting Lashae Dwyer’s layup attempt to the ocean! Miami called a timeout, desperately trying to find any offense.

Miami could not, but Carolina found just enough. Boston, struggling most of the day, made her third basket of the game with seconds to spare in the third. She connected on a jumper to give Carolina its largest lead of the game, 31-15, to close the third quarter.

Cardoso’s play off the bench closed the door on the Hurricanes. She dominated on both ends, and offensively, was the boost the Gamecocks needed to win. Her putback through contact made it 38-23 with 4:09 remaining in the game. She added one from the charity stripe to extend the lead to 16 points and added to her total of a team-high 11.

Boston stepped onto the free-throw line with 1:19 left to play with hopes of extending her consecutive double-double streak. She connected on both attempts to make it 26-straight games with a double-double. Boston finished the game with 10 points & 16 rebounds.

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