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Mar 31, 2024 5:51 pm

No. 1 South Carolina outclasses No. 3 Oregon State to reach Final Four

South carolina oregon state

ALBANY, N.Y. — South Carolina’s undefeated dream season continued Sunday as the Gamecocks survived a challenge from underdog Oregon State to win 70-58 and earn their way to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament.

But it wasn’t a vintage performance from the top-seeded Gamecocks, whose average margin of victory was 30.1 points per game on the season. They shot only 33.3 percent from the field compared to their season average of 49.8 percent and 20 percent (4 of 20) from 3-point range, half their season average.

“(Oregon State is) a really tough basketball team. They’re young. They’re going to be back in this position,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “We were lucky to get out of this region and to the Final Four again.”

Freshman Tessa Johnson led top-seeded South Carolina (36-0) with 15 points. Kamilla Cardoso, the team’s leading scorer on the season, added 12 points and nine rebounds while Bree Hall had 10 in the final of the Albany 1 Region. Ashlyn Watkins pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds.

“I was the little girl dreaming of being up there and now I am,” Johnson said.

This will be the fourth consecutive and sixth overall trip to the Final Four for the Dawn Staley-led Gamecocks, who won the national championship in 2017 and 2022.

Third-seeded Oregon State (27-8) beat second seed Notre Dame 70-65 Friday to advance to the Elite Eight and was seeking its second trip to the Final Four. The Beavers also were seeking their first-ever win over an Associated Press No. 1 team.

Despite the loss, coach Scott Rueck can label the season a success as the Beavers turned around from last season’s 13-18 finish.

The Beavers were led by All-Pac-12 forward Raegan Beers with 16 points. Lily Hansford scored 12 points, Timea Gardiner added 10 and 12 rebounds, while Donovyn Hunter also scored 10.

Oregon State gave South Carolina all it could handle until midway through the third quarter, when the inability of the Beavers to put the ball in the basket on one sequence shifted momentum.

Oregon State whittled the deficit to 43-41 after a Beers layup with 6:08 left, and a Raven Johnson 3-pointer extended the Gamecocks’ lead to 46-41.

On the Beavers’ next trip down the court, Dominika Paurova missed a long-range jumper and Talia von Oelhoffen couldn’t convert a putback shot or a layup after gaining possession on a loose ball.

South Carolina ended the third on a 12-5 run to take a 12-point lead.

Both teams scored 12 points in the fourth, when Beers was hampered by four fouls for much of the quarter.

Oregon State cut the deficit to four following two straight Hunter baskets with 3:55 left but couldn’t get any closer. South Carolina closed on an 8-0 run.

“I thought we got about every shot we wanted during that stretch. They just didn’t fall,” Rueck said. “(We) had to be near flawless to win. We just weren’t flawless enough.”

The Gamecocks set the tone early with stifling defense. After a Beers jumper put the Beavers up 2-0 – their only lead of the game – South Carolina double-teamed in the backcourt, then pressured Oregon State into turnovers or tough shots to beat the clock for much of the first quarter.

South Carolina outrebounded Oregon State 51-37 and had 28 second-chance points compared to four for the Beavers.

–Jami Farkas, Field Level Media

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