South Carolina women’s basketball almost saw its national championship dreams come to a halt in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
But the Gamecocks made a strong second-half comeback and held on to keep their season alive and advance to the Sweet 16 with a 71-68 win against Arizona State on Sunday. The No. 1-seeded Gamecocks will travel to Stockton, Calif., to play in the regional round next weekend.
South Carolina took a 10-point lead midway through the fourth quarter but had to fight off a comeback from the Sun Devils, who took a 68-67 lead with 2:04 to play. USC junior A’ja Wilson bounced right back with a putback to give South Carolina a 69-68 lead with 48 seconds to play.
Junior guard Kaela Davis finally put away the game with a steal with 18 seconds to play and Wilson hit a pair of free throws with 15 seconds left.
Davis scored 15 of her 20 points after halftime and Wilson had a game-high 21 points.
South Carolina trailed at halftime for just the fifth time this season and had gone 1-3 in the previous games. The Gamecocks changed their fortunes this time after falling behind, 39-31, early.
They still trailed heading into the fourth period after cutting the lead to 53-51, fighting back after Arizona State opened the second half on a 5-0 run. Davis made a pair of free throws to open the fourth quarter to tie the game at 53.
The Gamecocks gained some breathing room with a furious start to the fourth quarter, taking a 67-57 lead before the Sun Devils stormed back to make it interesting at Colonial Life Arena.