South Carolina tops Tar Heel women to move into Elite Eight
Published 9:50 pm Friday, March 25, 2022
By PETE IACOBELLI
AP Sports Writer
GREENSBORO — Aliyah Boston had 28 points and 22 rebounds, and top-seeded South Carolina moved on to the Elite Eight with a 69-61 victory over North Carolina on Friday night in the NCAA Tournament.
The Gamecocks (32-2) will take on either No. 3 seed Iowa State or 10th-seeded Creighton in the Greensboro Region for a spot in the Final Four on Sunday.
The Tar Heels cut South Carolina’s 13-point fourth-quarter lead to five down the stretch. But each time, Boston got her team back on track with her 27th straight double-double. The All-American also scored her team’s final 13 points.
Deja Kelly led North Carolina (25-7) with 23 points.
Carlie Littlefield made a 3-pointer from the right corner to draw North Carolina within 63-59, but Boston grabbed Zia Cooke’s missed shot — her 11th offensive board — got fouled and made both free throws.
Anya Poole’s layup made it 65-61 with 2:04 left for UNC. Boston made an inside bucket a minute later, then closed things out with two foul shots with 18.4 seconds left for the final margin.
South Carolina was off to its fifth Elite Eight in the past eight NCAA Tournaments.
It has struggled with its shooting, finishing less than 36% in their past three games. But it looked like the Gamecocks had found their touch has they hit four of their first five attempts, including a pair of 3-pointers from Destanni Henderson for an 11-2 lead less than three minutes in.
North Carolina, which had won nine of its last 11 games, rallied by making 10 of 18 baskets in the opening quarter and led 23-22. That’s when South Carolina called on its history-making defense to move in front.
The Gamecocks hadn’t yielded a field goal in the second quarter of their first two NCAA games and cranked things up to stop the Tar Heels.
North Carolina did break the field-goal streak with a bucket close to the basket by Alyssa Ustby with 2:18 left before the half, but didn’t get much else in the period. The Tar Heels were outscored 17-8 and were only 1 of 9 from the field.
North Carolina tried to pack the middle to combat Boston and South Carolina’s large edge down low. Cooke and Henderson made the Tar Heels pay, scoring a combined 26 points and connecting on six 3-pointers for a 39-31 lead at the break.
The two went cold in the final two quarters, combining for go just 1 of 14 for two points.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels have plenty to build on. Starters Kelly, Ustby and Kennedy Todd-Williams are all sophomores who will be counted on heavily next season by North Carolina coach Courtney Banghart as the team tries to move in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks look like they’re playing with a weight, not a chip, on their shoulders. They’ve been motivated all season by the missed shots at the end of last year’s 66-65 national semifinal loss to NCAA champion Stanford. South Carolina is on the precipice of getting back where they’d expected throughout the year.
More AP coverage of March Madness: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25