No. 1 South Carolina relied on a lesser-used part of its game to advance to the Elite Eight with a 76-65 win against No. 5 Georgia Tech on Sunday in the NCAA women's basketball tournament. The Gamecocks will play the winner of No. 6 Texas and No. 2 Maryland in the Hemisfair regional final on Tuesday.
South Carolina does not score with the 3-point shot regularly. They average four made 3s a game and score 16.6 percent of their points from behind the arc, ranking in the bottom 10 percent of Division I teams, per Her Hoops Stats.
Against Georgia Tech, they used 3s to get up early and came back to them late under defensive pressure to keep a double-digit lead. They made eight treys, double their average, on 14 shots with Zia Cooke hitting five of her six attempts from deep. She led South Carolina with a team-high 17 points.
Gamecocks use depth
South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley went with a smaller lineup in the first half, keeping sophomore post Aliyah Boston on the bench. Boston played limited minutes and sophomore Laeticia Amihere stepped in for a big game, a promising sign of depth for opponents focused on shutting down Boston, a Naismith Player of the Year finalist.
The Gamecocks scored 44 points in the paint despite Boston's quiet nine points, five rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes. The 6-foot-4 Amihere scored 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting with a team-high seven rebounds. It was one point off her career high. Victaria Saxton, a 6-foot-2 junior, scored 12 on six of eight shots to sufficiently fill the void.
South Carolina had its best offensive shooting game (31-55, 56.4 percent) since the season opener against the College of Charleston.
South Carolina hits 3s early for lead
The Gamecocks hit five first-half 3-pointers — three from Zia Cooke and two from Destiny Littleton — to open up a lead. It was 10 points with a minute to play in the first until Georgia Tech hit a couple 3-pointers of their own.
Lotta-Maj Lahtinen made one and freshman Loyal McQueen finished off the frame with a difficult attempt to her right.
Georgia Tech's Kierra Fletcher scored immediately after the half to cut the deficit to two points and Boston, scoreless in the first half, answered with seven straight points to give South Carolina the double-digit buffer again. The Yellow Jackets never got closer than two possessions in the fourth quarter.
They couldn't get inside on the Gamecocks and didn't make as many shots, going 27-for-59 from the floor and 6-for-12 from 3-point range. Lahtinen scored a game-high 20 points with five assists, four rebounds and two steals. Fletcher had 16 with seven rebounds and Lorela Cubaj added 15 points with seven rebounds.
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