Boston, South Carolina top North Carolina 69-61 in Sweet 16
The junior post had a record-breaking performance to help the Gamecocks advance
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) – Aliyah Boston had 28 points and 22 rebounds, and top-seeded South Carolina moved on to the Elite Eight with a 69-61 victory over North Carolina on Friday night in the NCAA Tournament.
The Gamecocks (32-2) will take on either No. 3 seed Iowa State or 10th-seeded Creighton in the Greensboro Region for a spot in the Final Four on Sunday.
The Tar Heels cut South Carolina’s 13-point fourth-quarter lead to five down the stretch. But each time, Boston got her team back on track with her 27th straight double-double. The All-American also scored her team’s final 13 points.
Deja Kelly led North Carolina (25-7) with 23 points.
Carlie Littlefield made a 3-pointer from the right corner to draw North Carolina within 63-59, but Boston grabbed Zia Cooke’s missed shot – her 11th offensive board – got fouled and made both free throws.
Anya Poole’s layup made it 65-61 with 2:04 left for UNC. Boston made an inside bucket a minute later, then closed things out with two foul shots with 18.4 seconds left for the final margin.
South Carolina was off to its fifth Elite Eight in the past eight NCAA Tournaments.
It has struggled with its shooting, finishing less than 36% in their past three games. But it looked like the Gamecocks had found their touch has they hit four of their first five attempts, including a pair of 3-pointers from Destanni Henderson for an 11-2 lead less than three minutes in.
North Carolina, which had won nine of its last 11 games, rallied by making 10 of 18 baskets in the opening quarter and led 23-22. That’s when South Carolina called on its history-making defense to move in front.
The Gamecocks hadn’t yielded a field goal in the second quarter of their first two NCAA games and cranked things up to stop the Tar Heels.
North Carolina did break the field-goal streak with a bucket close to the basket by Alyssa Ustby with 2:18 left before the half, but didn’t get much else in the period. The Tar Heels were outscored 17-8 and were only 1 of 9 from the field.
North Carolina tried to pack the middle to combat Boston and South Carolina’s large edge down low. Cooke and Henderson made the Tar Heels pay, scoring a combined 26 points and connecting on six 3-pointers for a 39-31 lead at the break.
The two went cold in the final two quarters, combining for go just 1 of 14 for two points.
- The Gamecocks are in the Elite Eight for the fourth time in their last five trips to the NCAA tournament.
- The last three meetings with North Carolina have been in the Sweet 16, South Carolina last topped the Tar Heels in 2015 on its way to the program’s first Final Four.
- It was an iconic performance from Aliyah Boston, who finished with 28 points and 22 rebounds over 34 minutes of action. She came one shy of her career high for points and three from her career high in rebounds, but both marks shatter her previous bests for NCAA tournament games.
- Per ESPN Stats and Information, Boston is the fourth player since 2000 with 20 points and 20 rebounds in the Sweet 16 or later (previously Teaira McCowan, Slyvia Fowles and Courtney Paris).
- Boston broke McCowan’s NCAA Tournament record for total rebounds in a Sweet 16 game or later, previously set at 21 in Mississippi State’s game against UCA on March 25, 2018. The 22 rebounds is the third-highest single-game total in the tournament’s history.
- Boston had a double-double in the second half alone (19 points, 12 rebounds) and scored all 13 of the team’s points in the fourth quarter to stave off a North Carolina comeback attempt, also adding a program-record-tying nine rebounds in the period.
- Victaria Saxton and Boston were hard to stop on the glass at both ends of the court. The two posts combined for 36 of the team’s 48 total rebounds and had 19 offensive rebounds together – 12 more than North Carolina had as a team.
- Saxton reached a career high for rebounds with 14, she previously broke her personal best in the first round vs. Howard with 13.
- Boston’s 12 offensive rebounds is a career high and ties the program record for most in a single game. The record was first set by Marsha Williams at Furman on Jan. 20, 1993. Her 22 total rebounds are the sixth-highest single-game total in program history. Both totals are also new entries in the program’s NCAA Tournament record book.
- Thanks to a night where the team had more rebounds on the offensive end (25) than the defensive (23), South Carolina used a 27-6 advantage on second-chance points to overcome North Carolina’s 51.2 percent shooting on two-point field goals.
- With UNC dropping its heels into the paint on defense, the Gamecocks needed strong shooting performances from deep and got it in the first half from Zia Cooke and Destanni Henderson. The two guards combined for six 3s on 11 attempts in the first 20 minutes and accounted for 26 of the team’s 39 first-half points.
The Greensboro Regional title game will be on Sunday, the Gamecocks face either three-seeded Iowa State or No. 10 Creighton. Game time and broadcast information are still to be determined.