Columbia, SC -- Coming off of a six-game winning streak, the No.16 seed UNC Asheville Bulldogs had all confidence coming in this matchup to create an upset against the No.1 seed South Carolina Gamecocks. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs were not able to withstand the heat the Gamecocks brought to the table, putting them away 90-40.
Even though South Carolina without one of their star player -- Alaina Coates, due to an ankle injury – the Gamecocks were able to put in a team effort, in order to help them advance in the NCAA Tournament.
“I thought our players really locked into the game plan and executed on both sides of the ball,” said Coach Dawn Staley of South Carolina.
Both teams came out in the first quarter very strong and relentless as they went back and forth with each other offensively, but this did not last for long. The Bulldogs had no chance against the size and athleticism of South Carolina. Allisha Gray, finishing the game with 22 points, was able to reach double-digit figures in the first quarter alone.
“Every team comes out and thinks they’re able to play us, but once we get in the flow of the game, we take control of the game, and pretty much it’s our game,” said Gray.
Once the Gamecocks were able to settle into their style of basketball, they were able to make a 12-2 run that forced UNC Asheville to call a timeout in the second quarter. South Carolina held the lead, 31-18, making themselves unattainable to catch by UNC Asheville.
South Carolina’s defense was the main factor that fueled their offense. They were able to force multiple turnovers that created numerous fast break opportunities for Bianca Cuevas-Moore. It’s safe to say that they flustered the Bulldogs game plan.
“When you’re giving a very talented team break away layups from turnovers, and second chance points, then you’re going to be in trouble,” said Coach Brenda Kirkpatrick. “You have to dominate those areas, and we did not.”
Coming into the second half with a 48-22 lead, the Gamecocks were able to breathe a little and have fun some with this game. With the combination of Wilson effortlessly putting up 18 points in the paint, Gray knocking down shots from the perimeter to the block, and Cuevas-Moore (18 points) dashing down the court to finish the fast break play, South Carolina knew they had this one underneath their belt.
Going into the fourth quarter with a 48-point lead, the crowd settled down during knowing the outcome game. South Carolina’s bench was able to come in and keep their fire going.
South Carolina will be playing the winner of the Arizona State vs. Michigan State matchup on Sunday, March 19 at the Colonial Life Arena.