Title Game on Deck for Women's Basketball
NCAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
#1/1 SOUTH CAROLINA (34-2) VS #5/6 UCONN (30-5)
APRIL 3, 2022 | 8 PM ET | MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. | TARGET CENTER
- South Carolina leads the nation in scoring margin (+20.4) facing one of the toughest schedules in the nation with 13 games against ranked opponents and 24 games against NET top-50 teams.
- The Gamecock defense continues to impress, leading the NCAA Tournament in scoring defense at 44.8 points per game allowed and ranking ninth in field goal percentage defense (.336). On the season, only one opponent has reached 70 points and nine ranked opponents failed to reach 60 points.
- With a +19.4 rebounding margin in the NCAA Tournament – best in the field – South Carolina continues to lead the nation at +17.5 overall. Offensive rebounds is an especially powerful number for the Gamecocks, who turn 17.1 offensive boards (3rd in NCAA) into 16.2 second-chance points per game. In the NCAA Tournament, those numbers rise to 19.4 offensive boards and 16.8 second-chance points.
- The Gamecocks have shot 49.1 percent over the last two games en route to 76.0 ppg in that stretch.
- In the last three games, South Carolina’s outside shooting improved to 35.6 percent (16-45) with Destanni Henderson hitting 8-18 (.444) from the arc.
- All five South Carolina starters average at least 7.0 points in NCAA Tournament action so far as Victaria Saxton and Brea Beal have powered up their offensive production down the stretch. Beal is averaging 7.4 points over the last five games, shooting 40.0 percent, and she is second on the team in assists at 2.2 per game. Saxton is averaging 7.0 points and 9.8 boards in the final event of the season.
- Consensus National Player of the Year Aliyah Boston has not stopped justifying her title. The junior is averaging 18.0 points and 15.0 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament. She also leads the team in assists at 2.4 per game.
BY THE NUMBERS
5 – All five Gamecock starters scored in double figures vs. Louisville, the first time this season.
13 – South Carolina’s 13 wins over ranked opponents ties the program single-season record.
The UConn Series
The Huskies lead the series 9-2, but the Gamecocks have claimed two of the last three meetings, including one earlier this season. Nine games in the series have featured the #1 team in the country – four times South Carolina, five times UConn. The two have met in the NCAA Tournament once before – March 26, 2018, in a 94-65 Husky victory.
After claiming their first win in the series in the 2019-20 season, South Carolina dropped an overtime heartbreaker in Storrs in 2020-21.
The two met in the title game of the 2021 Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 22) with the Gamecocks claiming a 73-57 victory in the Bahamas. Aliyah Boston posted her first double-double of the season with 22 points and 15 rebounds as South Carolina dominated the glass 42-25. UConn took a three-point lead into halftime, but the Gamecocks exploded offensively in the third and locked down defensively in the fourth, allowing the Huskies just three points in the final period. Zia Cooke and Destanni Henderson added 17 and 15 points, respectively.
Gamecocks’ Tournament Summary
South Carolina’s 2022 NCAA Tournament story has been the story of their entire season – primarily a defensive plot line with a subplot of impressive rebounding.
The Gamecocks have held their five opponents to just 44.8 points per game to rank first in the event. South Carolina’s has a +19.4 rebounding margin, which also leads the tournament.
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.
Aliyah Boston was named MVP of the Greensboro Regional, and Destanni Henderson was an All-Tournament selection.
Four Gamecocks have picked up national recognition for their efforts this season.
Aliyah Boston leads the group as the consensus National Player of the Year, collecting the Naismith and Wade Trophies this week along with player of the year honors from the Associated Press, the USBWA and The Athletic. She is a finalist for the Wooden Award and for the Lisa Leslie award, both of which will be announced in the next few days.
Destanni Henderson picked up her first All-America recognition, earning a spot on the USBWA third team and honorable mention status from the AP. She is also a finalist for the Nancy Lieberman Point Guard Award.
Zia Cooke joined Henderson with AP honorable mention selection.
Head coach Dawn Staley added National Coach of the Year honors to her resume for the second year, collecting the title from the WBCA and USBWA, in addition to Naismith recognition.
South Carolina’s defense has been deceptively smothering throughout the season, leading the nation in field goal percentage defense (.330) and third in scoring defense (50.7). Yes, the Gamecocks lead the nation in blocked shots (7.5 per game), but they are barely in the top 300 in steals per game and, for the season, have a -0.9 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 three came within single digits of it – Missouri (Dec. 30), Mississippi State (Jan. 2), vs. Kentucky (3/6).
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 seventh in the NCAA with 78.8 points per game but scored just 59 on its trip to Columbia. Similarly, NC State is 12th at 77.3 points per game but netted just 57 at home against the Gamecocks. Louisville comes in at 14th in scoring (72.2 ppg), but scored just 59 against South Carolina.