Gamecocks Keep Dancing, Head to Sweet 16
WEST LAFAYETTE Ind. –
No. 25 South Carolina scrapped its way to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16
with a 72-61 win at No. 13/15 Purdue Monday night. It is the Gamecocks’
third Sweet 16 appearance with the last coming in 2002, when they
reached the Elite Eight. It is head coach Dawn Staley’s first
appearance in the regional semifinals. While shooting a high percentage
themselves, it was the Gamecock defense that shut down the Boilermaker
offense with steals early and forcing tough shots late. Senior
Markeshia Grant led the offense with 21 points, her sixth 20-point
outing of the season.
The Gamecock defense came out early as did
La’Keisha Sutton’s offense. The senior had the team’s first six points
and the Gamecocks turned 13 first-half turnovers by Purdue into 15
points. The game was back and forth out of the gate with four ties and
two lead changes in the first eight minutes. But, South Carolina would
change that in the back half of the period.
Trailing 11-8 with
13:22 left in the half, the Gamecocks put together an 11-2 run to take
control. Markeshia Grant got things going with a pull-up jumper at the
free throw line followed by a layup off a steal to put South Carolina
on top 12-11. After a Purdue missed shot, Ieasia Walker drove the lane
her first bucket of the night. Alex Guyton answered with a turnaround
jumper for Purdue, but the Gamecocks found Tina Roy on the next
possession, and the freshman drilled a 3 from the left wing. Sutton
capped the run by finishing a drive on a clear-out for a 19-13 South
Carolina advantage with 8:16 left to go before halftime.
closed within a point at 27-26 behind back-to-back 3s from Kk Houser
with 3:10 left in the half, but it was the last points the Boilermakers
would score in the period. Charenee Stephens putback a missed shot, and
Walker finished off the half with four points. The junior guard hit one
of two free throws then buried a 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock
for a 33-26 South Carolina lead at the break.
The second half
opened beyond the 3-point line. Purdue struck first with another triple
from Houser, but Grant answered with back-to-back 3s, which had Purdue
calling timeout just 2:30 into the half. The Gamecocks’ lead hovered
around double digits until a flurry of physical fouls. Double technical
and an intentional foul on Purdue had tempers running high, but South
Carolina kept stretching its lead. Walker’s 3-pointer from the right
sideline made it a 47-33 game, the Gamecocks’ largest lead of the game,
with 13:24 to go.
The Boilermakers narrowed the gap to seven at
49-42 with 10:31 to play, but the Gamecocks answered every run. Walker
added a quick transition layup, and Bruner put back her own miss to
stretch it back to 11 points just 30 seconds later. Purdue hit
back-to-back baskets to get within seven again, and again Bruner
responded, putting two moves on her defender to get a bucket form the
right block. After a Purdue miss, Grant added a pull-up jumper from the
right elbow to again lead by 11 with 7:46 to go.
rebounds helped Purdue get the margin inside double digits at 59-50
with 5:21 to go, but Bruner and Welch would not give an inch inside.
Bruner hit a free throw, and Welch added the next four points. From
there, the Gamecocks never looked back.
South Carolina held
Purdue to just 22 field goals overall and 31.6 percent shooting in the
second half a the defensive pressure wore down the Boilermakers.
other Gamecocks netted double figures, led by Walker’s 17 points to go
with her four assists. Sutton and Bruner added 10 points each. Welch
finished with eight rebounding, including four offensive to lead the
Gamecocks on the glass.
South Carolina will face #2/2 Stanford in Fresno, Calif., on Sat., March 24. Time and television details will be announced soon.