Gamecocks Open NCAA Tournament Action Friday
COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 1/1 South Carolina will host 2023 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament first-round games on Fri., Mar. 17, at Colonial Life Arena. The overall No. 1 seed at the event, the Gamecocks will face 16-seed Norfolk State at approximately 2 p.m., following the game between eighth-seeded South Florida and nine-seed Marquette, which will tip off at 11:30 a.m.
NCAA Tournament Take
South Carolina is in its 19th NCAA Tournament and its 11th straight under head coach Dawn Staley. The Gamecocks are 40-16 overall in the event with 12 Sweet 16 appearances, six Elite Eight seasons, four Final Four showings and two National Championships.
In her 23rd season as a head coach, Staley has taken a team to the NCAA Tournament 17 times. She is 34-14 at the event, including a 32-8 mark at South Carolina.
Senior Aliyah Boston’s 15.5 career scoring average in NCAA Tournament games leads the Gamecocks, as does her 13.2 rebounds per game. Senior Zia Cooke is close behind at 11.8 points per NCAA Tournament game.
The Norfolk State Series
The Gamecocks and Spartans have not previously met in women’s basketball. South Carolina has a 28-9 all-time record against current MEAC teams.
🏀 Potential Lineup
South Carolina’s annual defensive dominance is married to an offensive efficiency this season that has the Gamecocks marked as a favorite to repeat as National Champions. Ranked fourth in the country in scoring defense (51.1 ppg) and second in field goal percentage defense (.314), the Gamecocks are also seventh in the nation in scoring (81.4 ppg) and 10th in field goal percentage (.470). Their offensive numbers far out-pace those of the 2022 National Championship team (70.9 ppg, .426 FG%).
The Gamecock had that offense humming in the SEC Tournament, averaging 82.3 points on 51.4 percent shooting and handing out 22.3 assists per game to assist on 70.5 percent of their made field goals.
South Carolina leads the NCAA with 9.0 blocks per game, and their 288 total blocks this season is already reset the SEC record. The Gamecocks now hold the four best blocking seasons league history.
With her third first-team selection this week, SEC Player of the Year Aliyah Boston became just the fifth player in AP All-America history to claim a spot on a team all four years of her career. She also became a three-time Academic All-American.
Honorable mention All-American Brea Beal is a finalist for Naismith Defensive Player of the Year, but it is her offense that has delivered just as much over the last eight games – 8.9 ppg, 4.90 apg, 5.3 rpg, 50.0 FG%.
SEC Sixth Woman of the Year Kamilla Cardoso was dominant in the SEC Tournament, tying for team-high honors with 9.3 rebounds per game and finished second in scoring with her 13.0 points per game coming on 70.0 percent shooting.
All-America Third-Team selection Zia Cooke post her 100th career double-figure scoring game (in 132 outings) in the SEC Tournament title game, pouring in 24 points against Tennessee.
Gamecocks Against the Field
This season, South Carolina faced 11 of the 68 teams in the NCAA Tournament field, three of which are in the Greenville 1 Region with them. The Gamecocks went 14-0 against those 10 teams, including a 9-0 mark against the six other SEC teams in the field.
In addition to their six league rivals in the field – Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Missisippi State, Ole Miss, Tennessee – South Carolina played non-conference games at Maryland, vs. South Dakota State, at Stanford, against UCLA and at UConn.
The 11 teams include another No. 1 seed, two No. 2 seeds, a No. 3 seed and two No. 4 seeds.
A trio of Gamecock seniors are piling up national recognitions as the season winds down with 2022 National Player of the Year Aliyah Boston leading the way with First-Team All-America honors from the Associated Press, USBWA and The Athletic so far. She is a finalist for the :Lisa Leslie Center of the Year Award and Naismith Defensive Player of the Year. Boston is on all three of the most current national player of the year watch lists, and earned First-Team Academic All-America honors for the third time in her career.
Zia Cooke is a Third-Team All-American, according to the AP and USBWA. She is a finalist for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Shooting Guard of the Year Award and the Dawn Staley Award.
Brea Beal joined Boston as one of four finalists for Naismith Defensive Player of the Year.
Free for All
The Gamecocks go to the free throw line at one of the highest rates in the nation, ranking 14th in the nation with 15.6 made free throws per game.
Seniors Zia Cooke and Aliyah Boston go to the line more than any other Gamecocks (128 attempts each) and shoot the best percentages from the stripe. Cooke’s 102 made free throws lead the team, and her 79.7 percent accuracy ranks sixth in the SEC. Boston has made 98 free throws with 76.6 percent accuracy to rank ninth in the league.