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March 20, 2015

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Team 1st 2nd Total
Savannah State 30 18 48
South Carolina 43 38 81
South Carolina Press Conference
Savannah State Press Conference
Sights & Sounds

COLUMBIA, S.C. – After struggling to find its way in the first half, top-seeded South Carolina proved to be too much for Savannah State down the stretch, pulling away with a 21-1 second-half run sparked by back-to-back steals from Khadijah Sessions, for a 81-48 win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday evening at Colonial Life Arena. The Gamecocks (31-2) shot a Dawn Staley-era high 64.2 percent (34-of-53) from the field, and freshman A’ja Wilson narrowly missed a double-double, leading South Carolina with 15 points and nine rebounds.

The Gamecocks shot 72.0 percent (18-of-25) from the floor in the first half while holding Savannah State to 38.5 percent (10-26), but neither team could find and hold onto a rhythm in the opening period. The Tigers weathered a stretch of 10-straight made Gamecock baskets and stayed within striking distance by converting 8-of-11 from the free throw line. South Carolina took a 43-30 lead into the locker room.

Aleighsa Welch opened the second half with a quick basket in the paint, but the Gamecocks were whistled for fouls on three of Savannah State’s first four possessions. South Carolina turned it over on its next two offensive trips as the Tigers scored five unanswered points to pull within 10 at 45-35 with 17:39 on the clock. Asia Dozier asserted herself with two quick buckets to keep the lead in double digits, and after the teams traded a pair of baskets, the score stood at 39-51 with 15:49 to play.

Looking to apply more pressure to the Gamecocks, Savannah State put on a full court press that successful produced a Gamecock turnover. Looking to pull within 10 again, Jasmine Norman went to the basket for what seemed to be an open layup, but Welch closed in for a block. The Tigers retained possession, but Sessions took it away and raced to the basket for a layup and drew a foul. Sessions converted the conventional three-point play and then hit repeat on the ensuing possession, stealing the ball again and streaking down the court for a routine layup to stretch the score to 56-39. A free throw from Alaina Coates and a Wilson jumper pushed the lead to 20 at 59-39 with 13:30 to play.

With everything finally clicking into place for the Gamecocks on both ends of the court, Savannah State went nearly 10 minutes between baskets as the Gamecocks opened a 71-40 lead with just over six minutes to play.

Welch and Coates also reached double figures with 12 points apiece and perfect shooting nights from the floor. Welch was 6-of-6 from the field while Coates was 5-of-5 from the floor and 2-of-3 from the free throw line. Sessions was the fourth Gamecock to reach double digits, scoring 10 points. Freshman Bianca Cuevas matched a career-high with five assists.


With Savannah State within striking distance, Khadijah Sessions took a steal all the way for a transition layup on back-to-back possessions, including a three-point play, to ignite the Gamecocks. The five quick points helped launch a 21-1 run that buried the Tigers.

KEY STAT South Carolina took advantage of its size and depth, posting more points in the paint (56) that Savannah State’s total points (48)


  • The Gamecocks registered the highest field goal percentage of the Dawn Staley era at 64.2 percent.
  • Tonight’s win brings the Gamecocks’ season win total to 31 and takes their home win streak to 33, both program records.
  • South Carolina has advanced to the NCAA Tournament second round for the fourth-straight season and the eighth time in school history.
  • The victory is the first NCAA Tournament win in Colonial Life Arena, and the Gamecocks are now 6-2 overall in NCAA Tournament games played in Columbia.


The Gamecocks take on the winner of the matchup between No. 8 seed Syracuse and ninth seeded Nebraska on Sunday at 7 p.m. The second-round contest will be broadcast on ESPN2.