Aliyah Boston had 22 points and 10 rebounds, Zia Cooke scored 18 points, and top-seeded South Carolina used its smothering defense to take control in the second quarter, outlasting second-seeded Maryland 86-75 on Monday night to reach its third straight Final Four.
Coach Dawn Staley’s team improved to 36-0 this season with its 42nd straight victory dating to last year’s NCAA title run. The Gamecocks are now two games away from repeating as champions and completing the 10th undefeated season in the women’s game.
South Carolina will play Iowa and do-it-all star Caitlin Clark in the national semifinals in Dallas on Friday night.
It’s the Gamecocks’ fifth Final Four since 2015, all under Staley. She’ll try for her third national title next week.
Boston, the 6-foot-5 senior, made 10 of 14 shots. The three-time All-American added five assists and blocked two shots.
Maryland (28-7) was routed at home, 81-56, by the Gamecocks last Nov. 11, but played without injured All-American Diamond Miller.
With a healthy Miller and an offense averaging nearly 80 points a game, the Terrapins were ready to take on the big, imposing Gamecocks. Maryland pushed the pace early, disrupting South Carolina’s No. 1 defense and was ahead 21-15 as an edgy, pro-Gamecock crowd wasn’t sure what it was watching.
South Carolina didn’t panic. Cooke shook off an 0-for-3 start to score nine points. Boston was her steady self with 12 points in the half as the Gamecocks outscored the Terps 23-9 in the second quarter to lead 38-30 at halftime.
Maryland got two quick baskets after the break to cut South Carolina’s lead to 48-42. But the Gamecocks answered with a 14-3 burst to take control for good.
Miller led the Terps, looking for their first trip to the Final Four since 2015, with 24 points.
Maryland shot 50 percent for the game, yet couldn’t hold up down low against the Gamecocks. South Carolina outrebounded the Terps 48-26 and 25-7 on the offensive glass.
Virginia Tech moves on
Elizabeth Kitley scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, Georgia Amoore added 24 points, and top-seeded Virginia Tech advanced to the Final Four for the first time in school history with an 84-74 win over No. 3 seed Ohio State.
For the seventh time in the past 10 Final Fours there will be a first-time participant and it’s the champions of the ACC, adding another accomplishment to the best season in school history.
Playing in its first regional final, Virginia Tech (30-4) won its 15th straight game and will head to the Final Four having not lost in more than two months. The Hokies will face LSU in the national semifinals on Friday in Dallas.
Kitley, the Hokies’ 6-foot-6 center and leading scorer this season, took over on the interior in the second half. She scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter and her three-point play gave Virginia Tech a 70-60 lead.
Amoore hit her fourth 3-pointer of the game to push the lead to 13. Ohio State pulled within six in the final minute, but the Hokies were nearly perfect at the foul line down the stretch.
Amoore shook off the scare of a potential leg injury in the first half to scored 16 points in the second half. She had a career-high 29 in the regional semifinal win over Tennessee. Cayla King added 12 points, all in the first half for the Hokies.
Villanova All-American Maddy Siegrist declares for WNBA draft
Villanova star and AP All-American Maddy Siegrist will not return for a fifth season and has declared for the WNBA draft.
Siegrist led Villanova to a 30-7 overall record and the Sweet 16 for the second time ever this season. She led the country in scoring at 29.2 points per game and averaged 9.2 rebounds. She’s the two-time Big East Player of the Year.
Siegrist played four seasons and is the career leading scorer in Villanova basketball history for both men and women with 2,896 points. She also became the career leading scorer in Big East history for men and women with 1,693 points, in regular-season conference games only.
“I can’t thank Villanova enough for welcoming me into the greatest community on Earth,” Siegrist said. “From the first day I stepped on campus, I knew this would be my forever home. My college basketball career was everything that I dreamed of and more. However, when I look back on my career it is the people at Villanova and the relationships that I made that I am going to cherish forever.”
The NCAA granted athletes affected by the COVID-19 pandemic an extra season of eligibility. Siegrist decided the time was right to jump to the WNBA.
The Wildcats lost to Miami in the Sweet 16, meaning Siegrist had until Monday’s deadline to decide if she would return for another season or declare for the draft. Players on teams still alive in the NCAA Tournament have 48 hours after their final game to make a decision. The WNBA draft is April 10.
Siegrist scored 20 or more points in all 37 games this season, including 17 games of 30 points or more. The 37 consecutive 20-point game stretch is the longest streak by any women’s or men’s Division I player this century. She scored a career-best 50 points against Seton Hall on Feb. 11 on 20-of-26 shooting.