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Final Four Preview: South Carolina and Stanford face off in defensive battle

The Stanford Cardinal and the South Carolina Gamecocks are two of the top defensive teams and are set to meet in the Final Four.

Texas v South Carolina
Aliyah Boston is ready to bring it on the defensive end.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The No. 1 seed South Carolina Gamecocks face the No. 1 seed Stanford Cardinal in the first of two Final Four matchups on ESPN at 6 p.m. ET on Friday. The two programs have not met since the 2017 Final Four when South Carolina got the win en route to a national championship.

Both teams have won their tournament games by double-digits but it was Stanford that needed a second-half turnaround against Louisville to advance to this stage. Despite a shaky first half by Stanford in the regional final, both teams have been dominant all year long. Stanford boasts the second-best field goal percentage defense in the nation (32.9 percent), while South Carolina ranks 27th in the country (36.2 percent). Scoring defense is, again, in favor of Stanford at 53.4 points, with South Carolina allowing 57.9 points per contest.

Offensively, the Cardinal and Gamecocks have some similarities but also some striking differences. One area of similarity is notable post players. For the Cardinal, Haley Jones and Cameron Brink have quite a partnership in the frontcourt. Jones contributes 12.7 points and 7.5 rebounds while Brink, the freshman forward, has established herself as a rim protector. Brink is averaging 10.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks. For the Gamecocks, Aliyah Boston is a force with 13.8 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks. Her frontcourt teammate, Victaria Saxton is not a scoring factor with just 9.2 points but is a stalwart defensively.

If the teams need a basket late in the game, where will they look? For Stanford, the answer is Kiana Williams. Williams leads the team with 14.5 points and three assists and is shooting 38 percent from beyond the arc. For South Carolina, Zia Cooke has been a go-to scorer, leading the team with 15.6 points. Cooke has failed to reach double figures in just four games this season.

Game Information

No. 1 seed South Carolina Gamecocks (26-4, 14-2 SEC) vs. No. 1 seed Stanford Cardinal (29-2, 19-2 Pac-12)

When: Friday, April 2 at 6 p.m. ET

Where: The Alamodome in San Antonio, TX

How to watch/listen: ESPN/Radio: 107.5 The Game (South Carolina)

Key to the matchup: 3-point shooting could definitely be a factor. Stanford shoots 38 percent as a team on 23 attempts while South Carolina shoots 33 percent on 13 attempts per game. South Carolina’s ability to control the offensive rebounds and get second chance points could neutralize the threat of the 3-point shot from Stanford. Expect a low-scoring game as both teams bring defensive intensity.