The top-seeded South Carolina Gamecocks pulled away from ninth-seeded Oregon State, 78-69, in the second round of the Women’s NCAA Basketball Championship Tuesday night in Seattle, mostly by getting to the free throw line and shutting down the Beavers’ perimeter shooting.
In going 34-for-43 from the line, South Carolina (29-4) advanced to play fourth-seeded North Carolina, which defeated Michigan State Tuesday 62-53, in the Sweet 16 March 30 in Stanford, Calif. The Tar Heels were responsible for the Gamecocks’ only loss during a 16-1 start to the season, 74-66 Dec. 18 in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
“They had a goal to get to the Sweet 16, and they weren’t going to be denied, I’m really proud,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said of her team.
Oregon State (24-11) had dominated Conference USA champion Middle Tennessee, 55-36, on Sunday, holding the Blue Radiers to 23 percent shooting. Sydney Wiese, the freshman guard from Phoenix’s Pinnacle High School, was brilliant Sunday with a career-high 26 points and six three pointers, but she was held scoreless until hitting two three pointers in the final minute and a half and shot 3-for-15 in the game.
“We wanted to not let her get comfortable taking shots,” Staley said. “Sydney Wiese is a really good player, she can stroke it, and we were able to control the aspects of her game, so she wasn’t comfortable in her offense.”
Staley said she used post players to come out to the perimeter to put their hands in the view of Wiese, who still dished out a game-high six assists in playing all 40 minutes.
“People have done that to Sydney Wiese all year long,” OSU coach Scott Rueck said. “That’s basketball, sometimes it goes, sometimes it doesn’t. She’s been everybody’s target all year, and she managed to play through it. She still got shots she needed to.”
Elem Ibiam scored the first four points for the Gamecocks, and Ali Gibson put the Beavers on the board with a three. Jamie Weisner, who scored 21 points off the bench, drained one of her five threes on the night to knot the game at 8-8, but South Carolina’s Aleighsa Welch scored seven consecutive points to give her team a lead that would not be overtaken. The six-foot junior Welch would equal Weisner with 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting and grab a game-high 11 rebounds.
A Khadijah Sessions three gave the Gamecocks a 10-point advantage, 29-19. Ali Gibson would score with the shot clock expiring, and a late Weisner three kept OSU in it, but South Carolina led 34-25 at halftime.
At the break, the Beavers were 5-of-16 from long range, while Staley’s team was 1-of-1. That would soon change, as right out of the regrouping, Tiffany Mitchell and Asia Dozier would connect to increase the lead to 14 and give the Beavers a taste of their own medicine. USC finished 4-of-6 from downtown, and OSU was 10-of-30.
“They really have no weakness, they made us pay for the mistakes we made,” Rueck said.
Oregon State 6-foot-6 center Ruth Hamblin, the nation’s leading blocker, fouled out with 13 minutes left and no points, but had seven rebounds and three rejections.
Again when Oregon State cut the lead to 10, Mitchell pulled back a trey to deflate the momentum, and the SEC Player of the Year collected 20 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, and was 10-for-11 from the line.
Sessions also scored 13 points for the Gamecocks, and Alaina Coates had nine points and 11 rebounds. Gabriella Hanson scored 16 points for OSU, and Gibson posted 11 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
The teams actually tied with 44 points each in the second half, the Beavers controlled second-chance points 20-8, and their bench outscored South Carolina’s 43-10.