No. 1 South Carolina women beat Creighton, reach Final Four
The Gamecocks face either Louisville or Michigan in the national semifinal
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) – Aliyah Boston scored 19 points and led top-seeded South Carolina to its second straight Final Four with an 80-50 victory over Creighton on Sunday night, ending the 10th-seeded Bluejays’ surprise run through the NCAA Tournament. The Gamecocks (33-2) advanced to their fourth Final Four in the past seven tournaments.
Boston lost her streak of 27 double-doubles in a row, ending with seven rebounds in the blowout. But she gained a much bigger prize – a shot at redemption in Minneapolis next week.
Last year, Boston missed a short putback in the closing moments of the Gamecocks’ 66-65 loss to eventual NCAA champion Stanford in the national semifinals. She collapsed in tears on the court and has been almost single-minded in wanting to finish what the team missed out on then.
The Gamecocks will face either Louisville or Michigan on Friday in the Final Four. The top-seeded Cardinals play the No. 3 seed Wolverines for the Wichita Region title on Monday night.
South Carolina danced and celebrated the win on Sunday as Boston held up two fingers for its back-to-back Final Fours.
It was a disheartening end for the feel-good Bluejays (23-10), who had burst through the Greensboro Region to reach the Elite Eight. Lauren Jensen had 12 points to lead the Bluejays.
South Carolina had struggled on offense down the stretch this season, especially in the past four games – shooting less than 36% in the SEC Tournament final loss to Kentucky and in NCAA wins against Howard, Miami and North Carolina.
This time, the Gamecocks were efficient, free-flowing and on target. They made six of their first seven shots to take a 13-5 lead four minutes in. When Creighton closed to 13-10, South Carolina took off on a game-changing 31-10 surge to take control for good.
Boston was her unstoppable self against an opponent without a player taller than 6-foot-1. She made six of seven shots the first two quarters for 14 points. Destanni Henderson had 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting including a pair of 3-pointers.
The Gamecocks led 46-25 at the break and built the lead to 32 points late in the fourth quarter.
Brea Beal and Henderson finished with 12 points apiece while Victaria Saxton had 11, giving South Carolina four starters in double figures.
Creighton had hoped its unconventional, fire-away-from-3 attack might take the Gamecocks by surprise as it did to seventh-seeded Colorado, second-seeded Iowa and third-seeded Iowa State.
But much like No. 15 seed St. Peter’s on the men’s side in its lopsided loss to North Carolina earlier Sunday, the grind against Power Five programs proved too much to keep Cinderella dancing. Creighton could not match up size-wise with South Carolina and were out-rebounded 43-23.
- South Carolina moves on to its fourth Final Four appearance (2015, 2017, 2021, 2022) after winning its first four games of the tournament by an average of 28 points per game.
- Aliyah Boston was named the Greensboro Regional’s Most Outstanding Player and was joined by Destanni Henderson on the regional’s all-tournament team. Boston averaged 16.8 points and 14.3 rebounds over the four games, Henderson averaged 10 points per game.
- The Gamecock offense was deadly efficient in the first half, shooting 59 percent in the first quarter and 62 percent in the second. The high percentage was a product of quality shots at the basket; South Carolina scored 16 points in the paint in the first quarter and followed that with a 14-2 advantage in the category in the second quarter.
- All four posts who played 10 minutes or more scored at least nine points, including Kamilla Cardoso (nine points in 10 minutes) and Laeticia Amihere (nine points in 16 minutes) off the bench.
- The team’s starting five shot 15-of-22 (68.1 percent) in the first half, highlighted by Destanni Henderson (4-of-5), Brea Beal (4-of-6) and Aliyah Boston (6-of-7). Four of the five finished with double figures in scoring, led by Boston’s 19, and the starters finished shooting at a 54 percent clip.
- The offense was efficient because the offense was clean, the Gamecocks committed no turnovers until 1:10 left in the first half compared to nine assists. Before resting its starting lineup in the fourth quarter, South Carolina had just three total turnovers in the first three quarters
- With the game well in hand and an offense clicking, Boston played just 27 minutes and came three rebounds shy of extending her double-double streak. It stops at 27 games, stretching back to November 29.
- While her teammate in the post saw her streak end, senior Victaria Saxton locked in her first double-double of the season thanks to 11 points with a game-high 11 rebounds in just 21 minutes. It is Saxton’s fourth career double-double, she finished with 46 total rebounds in the first four games of the tournament.
- South Carolina nearly doubled up Creighton on the glass, finishing +20 (43-23). Creighton went without an offensive rebound until three minutes left in the third quarter and finished with just four live-ball offensive rebounds for the game.
- The Gamecocks’ size advantage inside led to chances at the free throw line. South Carolina hit 21-of-27 shots, marking the third time this season with 20 or more makes from the charity stripe along with a success rate of 75 percent or higher. Boston, Saxton and Cardoso each knocked down five to lead the team.
The Gamecocks await the winner of No. 1 Louisville and No. 3 Michigan to find out their Final Four opponent. The Cardinals and Wolverines play in the Wichita Regional final on Monday, March 28 at 9 p.m. ET.