Final Four bound! No. 1 South Carolina ousts Oregon State in NCAA Elite 8 round

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No. 1 South Carolina defeated No. 3 seed Oregon State 70-58 in the Elite Eight on Sunday at MVP Arena. The Gamecocks are headed to their sixth-ever Final Four and fourth in a row.

USC started guards Te-Hina Paopao, Raven Johnson and Bree Hall along with forward Chloe Kitts and center Kamilla Cardoso.

Three Gamecocks scored in double figures: Cardoso (12), Tessa Johnson (15) and Hall (10).

Next up for undefeated South Carolina (36-0): a trip to Cleveland to take on the winner of No. 1 Texas versus No. 3 NC State, which tipped off at 3 p.m. EDT in Portland.

Gamecocks start off shooting cold

South Carolina had a hard time scoring in the first half against Oregon State.

Despite getting off 15 more shots than OSU by intermission (43 to 28), USC only made three more shots than its opponent (14 to 11). The Gamecocks were 2-of-12 from three in the first two periods, with its only triples coming from Paopao and Tessa Johnson, though they shot 1-of-4 and 1-of-3, respectively.

South Carolina ended the game having shot 33% from the field, including 16-36 on layups and 20% from 3.

USC defense experiences highs and lows

The Gamecocks had a lot to be happy with on the defensive end of the court after one half of basketball: Four blocks (three from Ashlyn Watkins), four steals (two from Hall) and keeping the Beavers off the offensive boards (grabbing 13 defensive rebounds to OSU’s five offensive rebounds).

But the second quarter was tougher, as both teams scored 19 points each. The Beavers made four of their six first-half 3s and got off six more shots than they had in the first quarter (17 to 11). OSU had 28 shot attempts by halftime, which was two more than it had in the first half of its Sweet 16 victory over Notre Dame Friday.

A 4 minute, 32 second scoring drought for OSU in the third quarter gave USC its largest lead of the game with just over one minute and 30 seconds left in the period (55-41).

Oregon State cut South Carolina’s lead back to four (62-56) in the fourth quarter after hitting two big 3s in a row and trading baskets with USC. A big block from Watkins (her fourth) in the final minutes, and Hall’s defense on an OSU inbound pass with 48.2 seconds left helped USC ice the game.

South Carolina’s depth shines

USC’s bench has made a huge difference all NCAA Tournament long. And Sunday was no exception. The Gamecocks bench outscored the Beavers 31-11 after three quarters.

Watkins provided a huge boost for USC off the bench after starting multiple March Madness games prior. She had 8 points on 50% shooting, eight rebounds (which led the team), three blocks (which led the team) and a steal in the first three periods. She also had a huge block late in the fourth quarter, which knocked the ball in position for Hall to get ahold of it and switch possession to USC.

Tessa Johnson sank a couple big-time 3s, working as a spark plug for South Carolina’s 12-0 run in the third quarter. She also hit a crucial and-1 floater late in the fourth quarter to stretch USC’s lead from four to seven along with several free throws to put the game out of reach.

Next South Carolina women’s basketball game

Who: No. 1 South Carolina vs. the winner of No. 1 Texas-No. 3 NC State

When: 7 or 9:30 p.m. Friday, April 5

Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio

TV channel: ESPN