South Carolina women’s basketball was 20 minutes away from seeing its season come to an end after an abysmal offensive half.
But the next 10 minutes kept the Gamecocks’ season alive and the following 10 made sure they would play for the first national title in program history on Sunday night.
South Carolina used a monster third-quarter, led by a 13-0 run, to take a 62-53 win against Stanford in Dallas. The Gamecocks will play either UConn or Mississippi State in the national title game at American Airlines Arena.
Junior guard Allisha Gray was dynamite for the Gamecocks in the national semifinal, scoring 18 points. Gray started the third quarter right for the Gamecocks with a layup, getting USC on the path to the final game of the season.
Junior foward A’ja Wilson had a season-high 19 rebounds, scoring 13 points despite being constantly double-teamed in the post.
The Gamecocks scored only six points in the second quarter, leading to a 29-20 halftime deficit and USC’s lowest offensive output in a half this season.
After USC pulled within 33-26, the Gamecocks went on a 13-0 run. They pulled within three points after four straight free throws — two from Kaela Davis, two from Gray — as USC trailed just 33-30.
Gray came up with a fantastic drive to make it 33-32 and then a key block defensively to set up a Bianca Cuevas-Moore 3-pointer to take the 35-33 lead. A perfect pass from Tyasha Harris to Doniyah Cliney in transition extended the run to 11-0, forcing a Stanford timeout.
Stanford made a strong push early in the fourth, making it a 43-40 game before Wilson grabbed a loose ball and laid it in, then found Gray for a layup high off the glass to give USC a seven-point lead at 47-40.
Gray put the cherry on top with a highlight-reel layup for a three-point play and an eight-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.
The Cardinal cut South Carolina’s lead to three an Alanna Smith 3-pointer with 2:10 to play, but Wilson grabbed a clutch offensive rebound and was fouled. She hit the first free throw to make it a two-possession lead. Harris banked in a midrange jumper, sealing the game for the Gamecocks before Cuevas-Moore ran out ahead of the defense for a layup to turn the lead back to eight for USC.