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Border Battle for Gamecocks in NCAA Second Round
Women's Basketball  . 

Border Battle for Gamecocks in NCAA Second Round

No. 1/1 South Carolina hosts border rival North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sun., Mar. 24. Tipoff from Colonial Life Arena is set for 1 p.m. on ABC.

The North Carolina Series
The Gamecocks and Tar Heels have history dating back to 1975-76, but, until this season, neither had played on the other’s home court since Jan. 4, 1989.

South Carolina’s trip to Chapel Hill on Nov. 30 broke that streak, and the Gamecocks claimed the back-and-forth battle 65-58 thanks to a 21-12 third-quarter rally.

Overall the Tar Heels lead the series 11-10, but the series is tied 4-4 in the Dawn Staley era (beginning 2008-09), and South Carolina has won the last three meetings. The Gamecocks are 2-1 against the Tar Heels in the NCAA Tournament. The wins came in 2015, en route to the program’s first NCAA Final Four appearance, and in 2022, en route to the program’s second NCAA Championship.

Gamecock Notables

  • The Gamecock bench continues to shine, even when its members are outnumbered by the starters. With just three bench players available on Friday, the group’s 43 points nearly matched the 48 of the starting five. South Carolina is second in the nation with 33.6 bench points per game, outscoring their counterparts by 212 points per game this season.

  • South Carolina is fourth in the nation with 46.3 rebounds per game and a 57.6 rebounding percentage. The Gamecocks grab 40.3 percent of the offensive rebounds available, which ranks fourth in the nation, and turn those 14.3 offensive boards per game into 15.4 second-chance points per game.

  • All-American and SEC Defensive Player of the Year Kamilla Cardoso is set for her 2024 NCAA Tournament debut. The Gamecocks’ top scorer (14.0 ppg) and rebounder (9.5 rpg) is 10th in the nation in blocks per game (2.6) and 20th in field goal percentage (.584). She is sixth in program history with 190 blocks in her Gamecock career.

  • Over the last three games, freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley averaged 18.0 points on 55.9 percent shooting, including 56.3 percent (9-of-16) from 3-point range. Her 17 points on Friday were the most by a Gamecock freshman in an NCAA Tournament game since A’ja Wilson in 2015, and her 5 made 3s tied the program’s NCAA Tournament game record.

  • Sophomore Ashlyn Watkins has been especially active around the rim defensively, blocking 4.5 shots per game over her last two outings. In the postseason, she has blocked 2.8 shots per game.

  • All-American Te-Hina Paopao’s 77 made 3s this season rank eighth in the South Carolina single-season standings. She added four to her season total on Friday, marking her 12th game of at least three made 3s this season. She is second in the nation in 3-point percentage, hitting 47.5 percent from the arc.

  • Bolstered by her 21-point, 13-rebound outing on Friday, sophomore Chloe Kitts is third on the team with 10.8 points per postseason game on team-best 73.1 percent shooting with a team-best 7.3 rebounding average.

Ranking Review
South Carolina sits atop both national polls again this week. It marks the 82nd time the Gamecocks have been No. 1 in the AP Poll – the fourth-most of any program in that poll’s history (3rd is La. Tech, 83).

The Gamecocks have the longest active streak of weeks in the AP Top 10 at 95, beginning with the 2019-20 preseason poll. Their 226 straight appearances in the AP Poll, dating back to Dec. 10, 2012, marks the second-longest active streak in the nation and the ninth longest all-time (8th place, Notre Dame, 234).

In the USA Today/WBCA Coaches’ Poll, South Carolina has been in the top 10 since claiming the No. 10 spot in the 2019-20 preseason poll


Awards Season
South Carolina picked up eight recognitions when the SEC coaches’ votes were tallied for postseason awards with seven-time SEC Coach of the Year Dawn Staley and SEC Defensive Player of the Year Kamilla Cardoso headlining the list. Cardoso was the lone Gamecock on the All-SEC First Team, but a trio of second-team selections – Raven Johnson, Te-Hina Paopao, Ashlyn Watkins – made it a program-record tying All-SEC haul. MiLaysia Fulwiley rounded out the group with All-Freshman honors.

Nationally, Cardoso and Paopao have collected numerous All-America accolades. Staley, meanwhile, has swept the National Coach of the Year awards announced.

All About Balance
South Carolina’s success this season has been built on its balance in all aspects of the game. Ranked second in the nation with 86.2 points per game, no Gamecock is among the nation’s top 250 scorers.

The Gamecocks are the only team ranked among the nation’s top 25 in both scoring offense (2nd, 86.2 ppg) and defense (13th, 55.8 ppg).

South Carolina is third in the nation in field goal percentage (.499) and first in field goal percentage defense (.319). In SEC action, the Gamecocks led the league in all four categories – 84.3 ppg, 57.9 ppg allowed – .491 field goal percentage, .334 field goal percentage allowed.

The Gamecock offense is balanced as well with 53.3 percent of points coming in the paint (45.9 ppg). The guards are scoring 53.4 percent of the points (46.0 ppg). South Carolina averages 41.9 points in the first half and 44.3 in the second.