South Carolina Basketball: Gamecocks dominate Tar Heels to advance to Sweet Sixteen

Dawn Staley's South Carolina basketball team whipped North Carolina by 47 points to move on to the Sweet Sixteen.

South Carolina basketball guards MiLaysia Fulwiley and Te-Hina Paopao
South Carolina basketball guards MiLaysia Fulwiley and Te-Hina Paopao / Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
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South Carolina basketball beat the Presbyterian Blue Hose on Friday (for the second time this season) to advance to the NCAA Tournament's Round of 32. Their next test was also a regular season rematch as the 8-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels were up next for Dawn Staley's team.

The Gamecocks had one of their toughest games of the year against UNC back in November, but that game was in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. This contest was in Columbia, South Carolina, however, and Kamilla Cardoso and Bree Hall were back for USC after missing their previous game.

The game began with a Cardoso-won tip that sent Ashlyn Watkins into the lane in under 4 seconds. She was fouled and made 1-2 foul shots to open the scoring. A surprise full-court press from the Gamecocks forced a turnover on UNC's first two possessions after the Tar Heels crossed halfcourt, but Carolina gave it back both times, making it where neither team took an official shot until almost 90 seconds into the game.

Indya Nivar and Kamilla Cardoso each got a 2nd chance bucket, but that was all the scoring in the opening minutes as the score stayed 3-2 until Ashlyn Watkins made a putback at the 6:30 mark.

The Carolina defensive intensity made life extremely difficult for the Tar Heels. Dawn Staley's team held UNC to just 4 points in the first 6 1/2 minutes of the game as they jumped out to an 11-4 lead. An Alyssa Ustby bucket (after a clear travel was missed) ended the run, but the Gamecocks followed it up with another run, this one an 11-0 onslaught behind Chloe Kitts, Tessa Johnson, and MiLaysia Fulwiley.

Even a timeout couldn't save the Tar Heels as the Carolina run grew to 15-0, ending the 1st quarter at 28-8.

The 2nd quarter began with another Johnson 3-ball (her 3rd), and after a series of misses from both sides, Alyssa Ustby went 1-1 from the foul line to end the run at 18-0. The scoring slowed a bit as missed shots and turnovers piled up for the two Carolinas.

Kamilla Cardoso and Ashlyn Watkins opened things up again with back-to-back paint buckets, and then Te-Hina Paopao canned a 3-pointer to make the score 41-10. A few moments later, back-to-back-to-back deep balls from MiLaysia Fulwiley (twice) and Te-Hina Paopao (making them 8-10 from outside!) brought the score to 56-14.

The Gamecocks didn't score over the final 2 minutes of the half, so the Heels were able to cut into the lead a bit, making the score 56-19 as the buzzer sounded.

North Carolina came out with a better offensive game plan after halftime, but even through their best minutes with the ball all game, the Tar Heels could only make up one point on the scoreboard. Alyssa Ustby got a few paint shots to go for UNC, and Lexi Donarski hit two from outside, but Dawn Staley's squad was able to keep up thanks to 5-straight points from MiLaysia Fulwiley.

Despite some awful officiating in the 3rd quarter and the Gamecocks letting up a bit on their all-out assault, South Carolina basketball led 70-34 heading into the final stanza.

The 4th quarter was a coast to the finish line for USC. The Gamecocks held North Carolina to just 7 points in the final period (4 coming against no defense in the closing minute), and Carolina won by a ridiculous 47-point margin. USC will play against the winner of Oklahoma and Indiana in the Sweet Sixteen next week in Albany, New York.

Final. 41. 441. South Carolina Basketball vs. North Carolina Tar Heels. 88. 533