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Analysis: No. 1 Թϱ women's basketball books 4th straight trip to Elite Eight

<p>FILE — Sophomore guard Raven Johnson drives the ball down the court in South Carolina's second-round game against North Carolina during the NCAA Women’s Tournament at Colonial Life Arena on March 24, 2024. Johnson scored 14 points in just over 32 minutes of play during the Gamecocks' 79-75 Sweet Sixteen victory over the Indiana Hoosiers.</p>
FILE — Sophomore guard Raven Johnson drives the ball down the court in Թϱ's second-round game against North Carolina during the NCAA Women’s Tournament at Colonial Life Arena on March 24, 2024. Johnson scored 14 points in just over 32 minutes of play during the Gamecocks' 79-75 Sweet Sixteen victory over the Indiana Hoosiers.

The No. 1 Թϱ women's basketball team advanced to the Elite Eight for the fourth consecutive year, defeating No. 4 seed Indiana 79-75 Friday afternoon.

The Gamecocks picked up where it left off in its Round of 32 win over the North Carolina Tar Heels as it outscored the Hoosiers 26-15 in the first quarter, ending the period on a 14-3 run. Թϱ had four players make at least one 3-pointer and shot a combined 5-7 from behind the arc. Indiana, on the other hand, shot just 3-12 from behind the arc in the first 10 minutes.  

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“We have threats from all over the court. We have threats on the bench, also. It's hard to guard our team because we just bring different weapons,” sophomore guard Raven Johnson said. “We can shoot from outside, we can dominate in the paint, we have drivers, we have everything.”

The Gamecocks carried its momentum into the second quarter, as it outscored Indiana 23-17 and went into halftime leading 49-32. 

Թϱ’s defense was sharp at the start of the game, recording three steals and four blocks. The Gamecocks also limited the Hoosiers to only 12 made field goals on 32 attempts through the first two quarters. 

Թϱ also continued to shoot efficiently in the second quarter, bringing its shooting total to 18-35 from the field in the first half. Senior center Kamilla Cardoso made six of her first seven shots and led the Gamecocks with 13 first-half points, along with two blocks. 

The Hoosiers bounced back in the third quarter, as it outscored the Gamecocks 23-16 and cut Թϱ’s lead to 10 going into the fourth quarter. 

Թϱ still made seven of 15 shots from the field in the period, but Indiana shot a more efficient nine for 16, as it also made four 3-pointers.  

Indiana remained hot to start the fourth quarter, holding Թϱ to 0 points in the first three minutes and cutting Թϱ's lead further to only 5 points.  

The Gamecocks and the Hoosiers went back and forth in the final minutes before Indiana made it a 2-point game with about one minute left in regulation. Johnson then hit a 3-pointer to put Թϱ up by 5 with 53 seconds remaining. 

“I knew (Johnson) wasn’t going to let us lose. I knew she was going to do something. And she had two big baskets,” head coach Dawn Staley said. “A lot of that was her making big plays, instinctive plays that really good point guards do when they need to do it.” 

Indiana had a chance to stay in the game with 14 seconds left as it trailed by 4, but sophomore forward Ashlyn Watkins blocked a 3-point attempt to help seal the win. 

“When the pressure's on, we have to be able to execute, and we'll look back at this game and see that we were able to execute and defend as well,” junior guard Bree Hall said.

Indiana outscored Թϱ again in the fourth quarter, but Watkins’ block and the Gamecocks' ability to hit free throws at the end of the game allowed it to hang on to the victory. 

Cardoso scored a team-high 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds along with three blocks. Johnson also finished with 14 points, five rebounds, six assists and shot a perfect 3-3 from behind the arc. 

“We got a resilient basketball team that they don't like losing," Staley said.  "They are able to make plays on both sides of the basketball."

Թϱ will return to action Sunday at an undetermined time to face No. 3 seed Oregon State for a chance to return to the Final Four.


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