South Carolina basketball coach Dawn Staley said as long as her defense can keep playing this good, her team's bad shooting can fix itself, later in the NCAA Tournament.
The top-seeded Gamecocks (31-2) held a second opponent without a field goal in the second quarter to beat Miami 49-33 on Sunday in the second round of the tournament.
It was ugly shooting all around. South Carolina shot just 30% and the Hurricanes (21-13) shot just 24% for the game.
But Staley, making her eighth Sweet 16 appearance in a row, said that defense is a nice security blanket for a team that has shot 37% or worse four of its past five games. The 54 points allowed in the first two rounds of the women's NCAAs is 17 fewer thanany other team has allowed in its first two games.
“There’s a nastiness to us on that side of the basketball. It wins basketball games for us," Staley said.
Aliyah Boston scored 10 points and 16 rebounds. Her 26th double-double in a row seemed in doubt until she was fouled with 1:19 left as Miami tried to extend the game. The All-American hit both free throws. Boston was just 4-of-15 from the field, missing both her 3-pointers and made just two of six free throws.
“I think I was just moving a little too fast," Boston said.
Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi of Miami led all scorers with 15 points. The 6-foot-4 forward only shot 3-pointers, going 5-of-11. The rest of the team combined for just six more field goals.
Hurricanes coach Katie Meier said the only way she saw to beat South Carolina was to slow down Boston, show as much toughness and fight as the Gamecocks and shoot well over the zone. The shooting wasn't there. It was their worst performance of the season.
“We were trying to match them punch for punch. Obviously we didn't,” Meier said. "If you didn't understand the grit and the character of our team, I think we proved that today.”
As long as South Carolina keeps playing amazing defense and keeps hitting the boards — they had 19 offensive rebounds to just six for Miami— Staley is convinced the other problems will work themselves out.
“I think you just have to continue to play good basketball – just take good shots. Basketball has a way of just repaying you for doing it the right way and being disciplined," she said.
A LITTLE HELP
With Boston struggling, Staley turned to sophomore transfer Kamilla Cardoso, who led the team with 11 points and four blocks and played 22 minutes — her most since Jan. 2.
A pair of three-point plays by Cardoso, about midway through the fourth quarter finally got the game in hand after Miami cut its deficit to 33-23.
“It was very comforting to know everybody stepped up,” Boston said.
Cardoso was the Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year last season at Syracuse.
“It's an ACC opponent. She used to play in the ACC. Maybe there is something there we didn't know about,” Staley said.
Miami got frustrated during a second quarter which saw the Hurricanes miss all nine shots with their only points coming from three free throws.
There were yelling and arguments with each other and Meier said she had to go “mama bear” and step in to remind them they still were in the game even when no shots were falling.
“I think we're a much better team when I'm the one yelling at them.” Meier said.
Miami: Meier has not made a Sweet 16 in nine NCAA Tournament appearances and the 24% shooting night was their worst of the season.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks defense is historic in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. South Carolina set NCAA Tournament records in Friday’s 79-21 win over Howard with just 21 points allowed in the game and four in the first half. Miami scored just three points in the second quarter and 10 points in the first half Sunday — the fourth lowest total in a half in tournament history.
South Carolina plays the winner of North Carolina and Arizona in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Friday.
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