COLUMBIA, S.C. – Fourth-seeded South Carolina women’s basketball took care of fifth-seeded Florida State 72-64 at Halton Arena on Sunday afternoon in the second round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament to reach its sixth-straight Sweet 16. The #15/18 Gamecocks (23-9, 13-3 SEC) got a clutch and-one from Tyasha Harris in the final minute of the game to ice the victory over the #25/22 Seminoles.
Junior Mikiah Herbert Harrigan led the way offensively off the bench with 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting. She knocked down seven of her eight free throws to go along with six rebounds and three blocks. Senior Alexis Jennings was her usual force for Carolina, finishing with 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting with seven rebounds and four blocks. Te’a Cooper scored 10 of her 13 points in the opening quarter, and collected six rebounds to go along with her four dimes. Harris was the final Gamecock in double figures, finishing with 11 points, including a perfect 4-of-4 from the charity stripe while handing out four assists.
The game began with physical play as Harris went into the chest of a Seminole defender to connect on the and-one on the opening possession. Florida State did not back down, ripping off the next seven points to take the lead early. The Seminoles extended their lead to 18-10 with another 7-0 surge later in the quarter, but Carolina had a run of its own ready. Cooper hit a pair of threes to jump start the offense, and a 7-0 run made it 18-17 with 1:18 remaining in the opening quarter. In the final possession of the quarter, Herbert Harrigan found herself with the ball and just seconds remaining. She hoisted a three that found the bottom of the net and the quarter ended all squared up at 20.
The second quarter began with some fire from the Carolina defense. Freshman Victaria Saxton sent back the first Seminole shot of the quarter, which led to a Harris triple on the other end for a 23-20 lead. After the two teams traded buckets, it became the Herbert Harrigan show. She went on to score 10 of the final 12 points of the half to help the Carolina lead grow to seven points as the halftime buzzer rang. At the break, Herbert Harrigan had already notched 13 points and six rebounds, willing the Gamecocks to a 37-30 lead.
In the third, it was Jennings connecting on an and-one after a block on the defensive end to take a 42-33 lead with 7:50 to go. Florida State scored seven of the next eight points to give the Seminoles life with 4:09 left in the third. Herbert Harrigan scored four points in the final two minutes of the quarter to keep Carolina in front by one heading into the final period.
In a back-and-forth fourth quarter, it was Jennings who got it going once again for the Garnet and Black. She went to work on the block, scoring three-straight buckets for Carolina. The defense ramped up as well in the early portions of the quarter, keeping the Seminoles scoreless for the first four minutes.
Another Jennings and-one had the Carolina faithful on their feet with 2:14 to go, but an FSU bucket with 1:56 had the game back within one. After a Cooper miss, Saxton rose up for an offensive rebound and was fouled on the way back up with 1:24 to play. The freshman calmly stepped to the line and sank both free throws to bring the lead back up to three. After a few FSU misses, the Seminoles stuck with their offensive rebounding to cut the lead back to one with 46 seconds remaining. On the next possession, Harris called her own number and drove down to the lane where she connected on a bucket through a foul, sending Halton Arena into a frenzy. She sank the free throw, giving Carolina a four-point advantage with 27.2 seconds remaining.
In the final 27.2 seconds, Carolina was able to secure a key defensive board and hit its free throws to reach the Sweet 16 for the sixth-straight year.
Before Harris’ clutch bucket in the final minute, it was Jennings who went to work for Carolina. She scored 14 points in the second half, including three-straight shots in the third quarter and an and-one in the fourth.
The Gamecocks shot an impressive 20-of-24 from the charity stripe, including clutch free throws from Saxton and Harris in the final 90 seconds to secure the win.
• The Gamecocks now lead the all-time series with Florida State 19-2, including 3-0 during the Dawn Staley era.
• In two career games against Florida State in the NCAA Tournament, Tyasha Harris has scored 27 points on 8-of-15 shooting and has seven rebounds and three steals.
• With today’s eight-point victory, the Gamecocks have won six NCAA Tournament second-round games dating back to 2014 with an average margin of victory of 14.2.
• With the victory, South Carolina has now won 30 NCAA Tournament games all-time, this being the 10th Sweet 16 appearance in program history.
The Gamecocks (23-9, 13-3 SEC) will head to Greensboro for the next round of the NCAA Tournament and will face the winner of Baylor and California on Sat ., Mar. 30.