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South Carolina women’s basketball will not get the chance to defend its 2022 NCAA championship after suffering its lone loss of the season 77-73 to 2-seed Iowa in the Final Four on Friday at American Airlines Center.
The No. 1 Gamecocks (36-1) fell behind Iowa (31-6) immediately in the first quarter and could never fully recover. Despite eight lead changes, South Carolina was only ahead for two minutes and never led by more than one point. Though it brought Iowa’s lead to as little as two points in the final 10 seconds, the Gamecocks could never fully close the gap.
The Hawkeyes face 3-seed LSU (33-2) in the national championship game on Sunday (3:30, ESPN).
South Carolina’s season came to an end after 42 straight victories dating back to March 2022 and the first undefeated regular season in program history. The Gamecocks’ seniors end their careers with an overall record of 129-9 and three consecutive Final Four appearances.
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Offense can’t overcome disastrous first quarter
Against one of the worst defenses in the country, the Gamecocks offense looked lost in the first quarter, and Zia Cooke was the only reason that South Carolina stayed within striking distance. She led the Gamecocks with nine first quarter points shooting 4-of-8, while the rest of the team combined for four points shooting 2-of-10. Cooke finished with 24 points and eight rebounds.
South Carolina shot 12 3-pointers in the first half but hit on only one from Bree Hall. The shooting picked up in the second half with redshirt freshman Raven Johnson hitting 3-of-6 beyond the arc, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Iowa’s seven team 3-pointers.
Bench forwards step up amid foul trouble
Gamecocks star Aliyah Boston spent the entire second quarter on the bench after picking up two early fouls, but Laeticia Amihere and Kamilla Cardoso picked up the slack in her absence. Amihere was the team’s second-highest scorer at halftime with eight points plus six rebounds and two assists.
Cardoso was an impact player on every part of the floor. She shot an impressive 7-of-9 from the field to finish with 14 points and 14 rebounds for her ninth double-double of the season. She also added three blocks.
Gamecocks defense can’t stop Caitlin Clark
Defense has been South Carolina’s calling card all season, but Clark and Iowa’s No. 1 scoring offense dismantled their system with an intense pace and a high volume of shots from 3-point range. Clark had 19 points at halftime, and though she finished the game shooting just 5-of-17 on her signature 3-pointers, she went 15-of-31 from the field. She finished with 41 points.
Monika Czinano also had an impressive performance against the Gamecocks’ elite post players. With Boston largely off the floor in foul trouble, Cardoso struggled to keep the Iowa center in front of her. Czinano finished with 18 points and three rebounds.
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