Gamecocks thump Jackrabbits in NCAA opener

Special to GoGamecocksMarch 23, 2013 

— When Dawn Staley took over as the women’s basketball coach at South Carolina in 2008, her goal was to make the Gamecocks a consistent winner. It took a couple of years, but the Gamecocks are on their way. On Saturday, USC, the No. 4 seed in the Norfolk Region, was aggressive from the start and rolled past No. 13 South Dakota State 74-52 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Coors Events Center. Prior last year’s run to the Sweet 16, the Gamecocks (25-7) had not been to the tournament since 2003. Now, they are one win away from a second consecutive trip to the Sweet 16. “It’s the thing that fuels me as a coach, to not have to relive what we went through four or five years ago,” said Staley, who was 10-18 in her first season at USC in 2008-09. “That’s the thing that keeps me motivated, keeps me wanting to take this program to higher heights.” Ashley Bruner recorded her third consecutive double-double, posting 15 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Gamecocks, who will face 12th-seeded Kansas (19-13) in the second round on Monday night in Boulder. Kansas upset host Colorado in the night cap 67-52. “I felt it, so I went with it,” Bruner said. “And it helped us, so I don’t mind it.” In addition to Bruner, Ieasia Walker (15 points), Elem Ibiam (13) and Tiffany Mitchell (11) also scored in double digits for USC, which has back-to-back 25-win seasons for the first time since the 1978-79 (27-10) and 1979-80 (30-6) seasons. Ibiam added eight rebounds. “It feels really good,” Walker said of being one win away from a second consecutive trip to the Sweet 16. “We’re not satisfied with just getting there, but we’re still just trying to take it one game at a time. We don’t want to look ahead and try to compare too much to last year.” On Saturday, the Gamecocks dominated the final 32 minutes to reach the second round for the seventh time in program history. SDSU (25-8), the Summit League champion, took a 14-13 lead eight minutes into the game, but USC took over from that point. The Gamecocks outscored SDSU 27-9 during the next nine minutes and led 44-26 at halftime. South Carolina kept its foot on the gas in the second half. Aleighsa Welch scored six straight points to spark a 15-3 run that gave the Gamecocks their biggest lead of the game, 61-34, with 11:38 to go. USC coasted into the finish line from there. “I’m very proud of our team and the way they came out and played for 40 minutes,” Staley said. “We were led by our seniors Ieasia Walker and Ashley Bruner. They willed us to a win today. They weren’t going to be denied and I think everybody else just followed their lead.”

Notes

... The Gamecocks held SDSU to 32-percent shooting (17-of-52) and dominated the boards, 40-28.

... USC came in ranking 342nd nationally (out of 343 teams) in free throw percentage, but made 76.9 percent (20-of-26) from the line.

... Ashley Eide led South Dakota State with 15 points. The Jackrabbits were making their fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. It is their fourth straight first-round exit.

... USC is 11-9 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, 3-1 under Staley.

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S. DAKOTA ST. (25-8)

Boever 4-9 0-0 9, Strop 0-1 0-0 0, Dietel 1-3 0-0 2, Waytashek 1-5 6-6 8, Eide 5-14 4-5 15, Stuart 0-1 0-0 0, Heiser 2-4 2-2 7, Hart 0-0 0-0 0, Cornemann 0-2 0-0 0, Walters 0-0 0-0 0, Clarin 3-9 2-3 8, Lingle 1-4 1-2 3. Totals 17-52 15-18 52.

SOUTH CAROLINA (25-7)

Walker 5-10 3-5 15, White 1-4 0-0 2, Bruner 7-11 1-2 15, Welch 3-4 2-2 8, Mitchell 3-7 4-5 11, Sessions 0-2 5-6 5, Montout 0-1 0-0 0, Dozier 1-4 2-2 5, Ibiam 5-9 3-4 13. Totals 25-52 20-26 74.

Halftime_South Carolina 44-26. 3-Point Goals_S. Dakota St. 3-14 (Boever 1-2, Heiser 1-2, Eide 1-6, Cornemann 0-1, Strop 0-1, Waytashek 0-2), South Carolina 4-11 (Walker 2-5, Mitchell 1-1, Dozier 1-2, Montout 0-1, White 0-1, Sessions 0-1). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_S. Dakota St. 28 (Boever, Dietel, Lingle 4), South Carolina 40 (Bruner 11). Assists_S. Dakota St. 6 (Boever, Dietel, Eide 2), South Carolina 13 (Walker 4). Total Fouls_S. Dakota St. 21, South Carolina 13. A_NA.

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