Gamecocks Face UCLA Rematch in Sweet 16
GREENVILLE, S.C. – No. 1/1 South Carolina will play No. 14/15 UCLA in the NCAA Sweet 16 on Sat., March 25. The rematch from the regular season will tipoff at 2 p.m. at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C.
The UCLA Series
The Gamecocks have a 3-1 overall record against the Bruins and have won all three meetings in the modern history of the series – two in Columbia and one in Los Angeles. All four games of the series have been decided by single digits.
The Bruins came to Colonial Life Arena earlier this season on Nov. 29 when the Gamecocks rallied to a 73-64 victory. A hot-shooting second half (.500) and lockdown defense in the fourth quarter helped South Carolina overcome a four-point halftime deficit. Inside play made the difference with Kamilla Cardoso scoring 14 of her 16 points in the second half and Aliyah Boston netting 12 of her 18 in the final 20 minutes. .
The Gamecocks are 158-95 (.625) all-time on a neutral court. South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley is 75-27 in games played at neutral sites (.735), including a 47-16 (.746) mark in postseason play.
NCAA Tournament Take
South Carolina is in its 19th NCAA Tournament and its 11th straight under head coach Dawn Staley. The Gamecocks are 42-16 overall in the event with now 13 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 (11 at South Carolina). She is 36-14 at the event, including a 34-8 mark at South Carolina.
Senior Aliyah Boston’s 14.5 career scoring average in NCAA Tournament games leads the Gamecocks, as does her 12.7 rebounds per game. Senior Zia Cooke is close behind at 11.8 points per NCAA Tournament game. The pair have played in just three NCAA Tournaments but hold several program records at the event. Boston holds the program record for total rebounds (165) and offensive rebounds (62) in career NCAA Tournament games. Cooke’s made 3-pointers (23) and 3-point attempts (65) in career NCAA Tournament games are also program records.
South Carolina is in the Sweet 16 for the ninth-straight season, the second-longest active streak in the nation (UConn, 29).
The Gamecocks have seven wins over ranked opponents this season, the third-most in the nation.
South Carolina’s 18.0 offensive rebounds per game rank second in the nation and have led to 18.8 second-chance points per game, including 19.9 against ranked opponents.
The Gamecocks’ success has been built on balance with their NCAA-leading defense (50.6 ppg, .312 FG%) matching up with a powerful offense – sixth in scoring (81.0 ppg) and 11th in field goal percentage (.467).
South Carolina’s shot blocking has reached new heights this season with an SEC-record 309 blocks. The Gamecocks are blocking 20.6 percent of their opponents’ 2-point field goals to lead the nation.
The Gamecock bench is scoring 36.6 points per game to account for 45.2 percent of the offense. The numbers hold relatively steady against ranked opponents – 33.4 ppg, 41.3 percent of the offense.
South Carolina’s paint presence is imposing on both ends of the floor. The Gamecocks out-score opponents 44.2-22.1 points per game in the paint and allow just 36.3 percent shooting in that space.
Dawn Staley was named USBWA Coach of the Year this week, making this the third time in the last four seasons that she has picked up the honor from at least one organization.
Four-time All-American Aliyah Boston is the only player in the country to rank in the top five in both player offensive and defensive rating, according to Her Hoop Stats.
All-American Zia Cooke’s 15.3 points per game are just off her career high and have come on a career-high 40.5 percent shooting.
South Carolina is routinely among the top rebounding teams in the country and has not dropped off this season.
The Gamecocks rank among the nation’s top two in rebounding margin (1st, +20.6), rebounding average (2nd, 49.6) and offensive rebounds (2nd, 18.0) – leading the SEC in all three categories. All three numbers are better than their school records, which were all set last season.
South Carolina is securing 48.8 percent of its own missed shots, which leads the nation and has delivered 18.8 second-chance points per game – a number that rises to 19.9 against ranked teams.
The Gamecocks have been out-rebounded just once this season (41-47 at #2/2 Stanford, Nov. 20) and only five other games have had a single-digit rebounding margin. Their 74 rebounds against Arkansas were a program record for SEC games, and their +57 rebounding margin (74-17) was a program record and the highest by an NCAA Div. I team in the last 20 seasons.
Aliyah Boston and Kamilla Cardoso are two of the top three rebounders in the SEC. Boston is second in rebounding average (9.7, 30th in NCAA) and third in offensive boards per game (3.4). Cardoso is third in rebounding average 8.6 and second in offensive boards at 3.6 (28th in NCAA).
Dial Up the Defense
Head coach Dawn Staley has always put a premium on defense, but the Gamecocks have taken it to another level over the last four seasons (2019-20 to present), during which opponents have scored just 53.7 points per game with 49 of those 135 games (36.3 percent) coming against ranked opponents.
This season, South Carolina leads the nation in scoring defense (50.6 ppg), field goal percentage defense (.312), and blocks per game (9.1). Out-scoring opponents by 30.4 points per game, the Gamecocks also lead the nation in scoring margin. That margin includes a +26.4 advantage in SEC games and +20.6 mark against ranked teams.
No team has reached its scoring average against the Gamecocks this season with the closest being against Kentucky (Feb. 2), which missed its average by 1.2 points. Only three other teams have come within single digits of their average (at #5/4 UConn, -3.2; Georgia, -4.4; vs. Arkansas, -7.2).
On the season, opposing teams have been held an average of 20.6 points below their usual points per game, including a 17.7 average in SEC games and 21.0 against ranked opponents.