Sweet and swift: No. 1 South Carolina runs past UCLA to reach NCAA Elite Eight

Tribune Content Agency

GREENVILLE, S.C. — The No. 1 Gamecocks are staying in Greenville, and moving on to the Elite Eight.

South Carolina’s women’s basketball team defeated UCLA, 59-43, at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Gamecocks move on to the Elite Eight round of March Madness, where they will face Maryland on Monday.

Saturday’s first half was a struggle for both offenses, with both teams thriving defensively.

South Carolina limited the production of UCLA’s Charisma Osbourne and Kiki Rice, who shot a combined 2 of 6 in the first half. Senior guards Brea Beal and Zia Cooke took on the responsibility of guarding those two.

The Bruins played sagging defense against South Carolina in hopes to force outside jumpers. The Gamecocks shot just 2 of 11 from 3-point range in the first half. Beal knocked down both of those makes.

The rebounding battle helped the Gamecocks throughout the game, as they recovered many of their own offensive misses. The height disparity made it difficult on UCLA to keep up on the glass.

South Carolina’s third-quarter offense was much more efficient. The team shot 9 of 14 in that period and outscored the Bruins by 10 points.

Big game for Brea Beal

Beal finished the game with 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists for South Carolina. Beal helped space the floor in the first half when the Gamecocks needed offense.

Beyond the stat sheet, she played hounding defense against UCLA’s guards, forcing difficult shots and turnovers.

Across four years, South Carolina has never lost a game in which Beal scores 10 or more points.

Rebounding edge

South Carolina dominated the boards against the Bruins for most of the game. The final rebounding margin was 42-34.

The Gamecocks struggled to score in the first half, with 25 points against the UCLA defense. But the Bruins only scored 15 through two quarters and struggled to get in any offensive rhythm, due in part to South Carolina’s ability to control the time of possession.

South Carolina entered the game with the best rebounding margin in the country at 20.6 per game. It was second in the nation in total rebounds per game, averaging 49.7.

Second meeting with Maryland

South Carolina will face another familiar face in the NCAA Tournament.

The Gamecocks will play Maryland in the Elite Eight at 7 p.m. Monday (ESPN). South Carolina defeated the Terrapins in November thanks to a third-quarter scoring surge.

Maryland earlier Saturday defeated Notre Dame in Greenville, 76-59. It will have senior guard Diamond Miller on Monday. She did not play in the November meeting due to an injury. Miller leads the Terrapins in scoring, rebounding, blocks and steals.

South Carolina is 6-0 against teams they’ve faced twice this season.

The winner of that game will move on to next weekend’s Final Four.