Gamecocks Outlast Stanford to Reach First National Championship Game
DALLAS (AP) — Allisha Gray scored 18 points, A’ja Wilson had a double-double and South Carolina is going to its first national championship game after beating Stanford 62-53 Friday night in the women’s national semifinals.
Wilson had 13 points and 19 rebounds for the Gamecocks (32-4), who lost in the semifinal of their only other Final Four appearance two years ago. They went ahead to stay with 13 straight points in the third quarter.
Stanford (32-6) took a big hit when senior star guard Karlie Samuelson sprained her right ankle with about 4 1/2 minutes before halftime. after the Cardinal had taken an eight-point lead with a 13-1 run.
South Carolina’s Dawn Staley, who played for Tara VanDerveer on the U.S. women’s team that won the 1996 Olympic gold medal, won as a coach against the Stanford coach for the first time in six tries.
Staley also made three consecutive Final Four appearances as a player for Virginia from 1990-92. Two of those included semifinal losses to VanDerveer and the Cardinal on way to their only national titles (1990, 1992).
Samuelson was hurt when she was making a move toward the basket, and stepped on the foot of South Carolina guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore. Samuelson’s right foot then slid onto the floor before twisting awkwardly. She grabbed near her ankle with both hands after falling down.
Two teammates came off the bench to carry Samuelson off the floor.
Samuelson, who finished scoreless while playing 25 minutes and taking only two shots, returned to start the second half. But she was back on the bench after only 73 seconds, standing behind the bench briefly while stretching her ankle and grimacing in pain. She entered the game several more times after that, but clearly was far from being 100 percent.
The senior guard’s younger sister, Katie Lou, played for UConn in the second semifinal game Friday night in the home of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. The four-time defending national champion Huskies played Mississippi State.
Erica McCall had 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Cardinal, but made only 7 of 19 shots. Alanna Smith had 14 points and 12 rebounds.
The Gamecocks went ahead 35-33 when Wilson, with defenders surrounding her as they did much of the game, found Bianca Cuevas-Moore open for a 3-pointer that she hit from right in front her teammates on the bench.
Stanford missed three shots on its next possession, and South Carolina quickly extended the lead on freshman Tyasha Harris’ one-handed bullet pass to Doniyah Cline, who was open under the basket for a layup.
That was the only assist for Harris, who finished with 10 points.
Stanford: The Cardinal, who were down by nine points in the fourth quarter, couldn’t pull off another comeback. They had trailed by at least seven points in six games it has come back to win this season. That includes five of their previous six games, all in the Pac-12 and NCAA Tournaments.
South Carolina: The victory kept up a big run by the South Carolina basketball teams. The men’s team takes on Gonzaga in the Final Four on Saturday.