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Elite 8 Game on Deck for Women's Basketball Sunday
Women's Basketball  . 

Elite 8 Game on Deck for Women's Basketball Sunday




  • South Carolina is in its sixth NCAA Regional Final in program history and its fourth in the last five NCAA Tournaments. Head coach Dawn Staley has taken the Gamecocks to at least the Elite 8 five times with a 3-1 record in the regional final round.
  • The Gamecocks lead the nation in scoring defense at 50.5 points per game allowed. They allowed just two opponents to reach 65 points this season and held eight of their 12 ranked opponents under 60 points.
  • The Gamecocks’ starting backcourt packed its offensive punch for Greensboro. Zia Cooke and Destanni Henderson combined for 28 points Friday night and scoring just that many across the Gamecocks’ first two games of the tournament.
  • National player of the year frontrunner Aliyah Boston  saw 10 of her 28 points against North Carolina come on offensive rebounds. She is 13th in the nation at 4.1 offensive boards per game – fifth in overall rebounds per game (12.4). She leads the nation with 28 double-doubles, posting at least 15 rebounds in 10 of those games. Boston has already set single-season school records with 138 offensive and 283 defensive boards this season.
  • Senior Victaria Saxton is averaging 11.7 rebounds in this NCAA Tournament and has hit career-high rebounding marks twice in the last three games, including grabbing 14 against #17/18 North Carolina on Friday.
  • Junior Brea Beal’s already stingy defense has been especially sharp in the postseason, holding her primary defensive assignment an average of 5.2 points below her scoring average.
  • Aliyah Boston’s 28 points Friday were the third-most scored by a Gamecock in any NCAA Tournament, matching Kaela Davis’ mark vs. Quinnipiac in the 2017 Sweet 16. The 1980s saw a pair of 30-point games.


13 – Aliyah Boston is 13 rebounds away from the single-season record set in 1977-78.

17.4 – The Gamecocks’ 17.4 offensive rebounds per game are second in the nation.


The Creighton Series
The Gamecocks and Bluejays have never met in women’s basketball.

Gamecocks’ Tournament Summary
South Carolina’s 2022 NCAA Tournament story has been the story of their entire season – a primarily defensive plot line with a subplot of impressive rebounding.

The Gamecocks’ 79-21 win over Howard in the opening round set NCAA Tournament first/second-round records for fewest points allowed in a first half (4), in a game (21) and tied the record for field goals allowed in a game (8). South Carolina also tied the record for rebounds in a game (69) and was second in rebounding margin (+41).

In defeating Miami (FL) 49-33 in the second round, the Gamecock defense set a record for fewest points allowed in the opening two rounds combined. Their 54 points allowed bested the previous record of 71.

In the Sweet 16, South Carolina’s offense sprang to life with seven 3-point field goals and a 39-point first half. The defense kicked in in the second quarter against #17/18 North Carolina, holding the Tar Heels to just eight points on 11.1 percent shooting in the period. Aliyah Boston’s 28 points and 22 rebounds marked the first 20-20 game by a Gamecock in the program’s NCAA Tournament history and just the second against a ranked opponent.

Ranked Readings
Against ranked opponents, South Carolina is 97-66 (.595) in the Dawn Staley era (beginning 2008-09), and even that mark is skewed by the early seasons of her tenure.

Since the start of the 2014-15 campaign, the Gamecocks are 82-27 (.752) against ranked teams, including a 34-6 mark since the start of the 2019-20 season.

This season, South Carolina’s 12 wins over ranked opponents are more than any other team in the country and have come by an average of 13.1 points.

Junior Aliyah Boston leads the team against ranked opponents, averaging a double-double (18.3 pts/13.4 rebs) to go with 3.0 blocks per game. Zia Cooke has 13.5 points per game, and Destanni Henderson is also in double figures at 12.5.


Dominating Defense
South Carolina’s defense has been deceptively smothering throughout the season, leading the nation in field goal percentage defense (.326) and third in scoring defense (50.5). Yes, the Gamecocks lead the nation in blocked shots (7.6 per game), but they are barely in the top 300 in steals per game and, for the season, have a -1.1 turnover margin. Neither stat tells the story of the relentless defensive effort, though.

As with most things, the Gamecocks are more fundamental than flashy as the defense is committed to the disruption of offensive flow, however, slight it may be. And, the method works. No team has reached its scoring average against the Gamecocks this season, including some of the SEC and the nation’s most prolific offenses, and only two came within single digits of it – Missouri (Dec. 30) and Mississippi State (Jan. 2).

The SEC’s highest-scoring team, LSU pours in 73.72 points per game but managed just 60 against the Gamecocks in Baton Rouge. Arkansas, second in the league at 73.59 points per game, scored just 52 at home against South Carolina and 54 in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals.

On a national stage, Maryland currently ranks fifth in NCAA with 78.8 points per game but scored just 59 on its trip to Columbia. Similarly, NC State is eighth at 77.3 points per game but netted just 57 at home against the Gamecocks.

All-Everything Aliyah Boston
Junior Aliyah Boston has spent her career in the national conversation, and this season the choir singing her praises has grown louder and more full throated thanks to her consistent dominance on both ends of the court from November through March.

For the second time in as many seasons, Boston is the only finalist for both the Naismith Trophy and Naismith Defensive Player of the Year. She is a unanimous AP All-America First-Team selection for the second season and The Athletic named her its National Player of the Year each of the last two seasons.

This season, Boston’s school-record 28 double-doubles leads the nation and includes an SEC-record 27 consecutive, the fifth-longest single-season streak in NCAA history. She leads the country in win shares (15.5) and is the only player in the country ranked in the top 10 of both offensive and defensive win shares. Her 44.8 player efficiency rating also leads the nation, far outranking the collection of other national player of the year finalists with Iowa’s Caitlin Clark coming in 15th at 36.5.

Boston averages a double-double for her career (14.4 ppg/11.1 rpg) while her 58 career double-doubles leads active SEC players, ranks second among Div. I active players and is second in program history. In 40 career games against ranked opponents, her averages rise to 15.1 ppg and 12.1 rpg. Her 28-point, 22-rebound performance against #17/18 North Carolina (Mar. 25) was the first 20-20 game in Gamecock NCAA Tournament history; it was the program’s eigthth overall and just the second against a ranked opponent.

Dropping over 20  pounds since the start of her sophomore season, Boston was all about basketball this summer, helping the U.S. to gold at the FIBA AmeriCup and spending time training with NBA legend Tim Duncan.

Henny-thing Goes
Senior point guard Destanni Henderson is coming into her own in her final collegiate season, proving that trusting the process works. Entering the program as the No. 1 point guard in the Class of 2018, she waited her turn to step in to the starting role – even accepting a star bench position as a sophomore instead of clamoring for a starting role at another guard spot.

In two seasons as the starting point guard, Henderson is handing out 4.5 assists per game, including 30 games with five or more, and has a 1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio. Her 11.6 points per game in that time includes 39.4 percent shooting from 3-point range.

The increased scoring as a starter helped Henderson join the 1,000-point club at Arkansas on Jan. 14.

Ready to Cooke
A prolific scorer from the minute she got to campus, junior Zia Cooke averages 12.9 points for her career. In 97 career games, she has hit double-digit points 72 times – 74.2 percent of her games – including 14 20-point outings. Her scoring average goes up to 13.8 in her 14 career games against ranked opponents.

The preseason All-American hit 1,000 career points on Dec. 12 and scored in double figures in 14 of her 15 SEC games to post 11.5 points per league game this season.

Brea-Fense, Brea-Fense
Junior guard Brea Beal personifies the Gamecock defense – gritty, physical and unrelenting. A mainstay in Dawn Staley’s starting lineup, the 6-foot-1 Beal regularly takes on an opponent’s toughest scorer and delivers on shutting her down.

Beal has allowed her primary defensive assignment to reach her scoring average just eight times this season, and has held her guard at least 40 percent below her average 14 times, including UConn’s Christyn Williams (10 pts vs. SC), Maryland’s Chloe Bibby (2 pts vs. SC), Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard (9 pts at SC) and Arkansas’ Amber Ramirez (8 pts in SEC Tournament).

For the season, Beal’s primary defensive assignment has scored 3.4 points below her season average. Against ranked opponents, that number rises to 3.5.

V is for Vital
Often the most overlooked player in the Gamecocks’ star-studded starting lineup, senior forward Victaria Saxton is the one whose consistently sound execution and tireless effort allow her teammates to shine – and she doesn’t mind either part of that statement.

Staley refers to Saxton as high performance, low maintenance; and commented earlier this season that she is the player the coaching staff wonders how they will replace next season.

Saxton’s 5.5 points, 5.8 rebounds (3.1 on the offensive end, 4th in the SEC), 1.4 blocks and 1.2 assists per game (four games of three or more) don’t appear to be flashy numbers, but to see them is to appreciate their impact.