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PC run ends as Gamecocks roll to next round, 91-39

PC’s Tilda Sjökvist (4) goes up for a layup Friday against South Carolina in the first round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. (PC Athletics/Tim Cowie photo)

COLUMBIA – There was no Lincoln Street Stunner at Colonial Life Arena.

Top-seeded South Carolina (33-0) delivered all that was expected Friday afternoon, beating Presbyterian 91-39 in the first-round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament and ending PC’s magical postseason run.

Five Gamecocks, led by Chloe Kitts off the bench, scored in double figures. Kitts scored a game-high 21 points on 9 of 9 shooting from the field and grabbed 13 rebounds.

“There’s a lot of reasons why that they are 33-0,” said PC head coach Alaura Sharp. “It’s hard to put a game plan together because there’s so many pieces and so many weapons if you hold off this person, this (other) person is really a great shooter, and they’re bringing scorers off the bench – they had two of their best scorers not even suited up today. And the way that they defend, their length and the pace that they play with.”

The Blue Hose (21-15) struggled with all of it. The Gamecocks out-rebounded PC 44-27 and forced 17 Blue Hose turnovers while shooting 36 of 64 (56.3%) from the field.

Led by Kitts and freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley’s 17 points, the Gamecocks bench outscored PC alone with 43 points. Fulwiley hit 5 of 10 3-point attempts.

The Gamecocks advance to face North Carolina Sunday in the second round of the tournament. The No. 8-seeded Tar Heels (20-12) held off No. 9 Michigan State 59-56 Friday. South Carolina defeated the Tar Heels 65-58 in November.

PC guard Paige Kindset (15) drives against South Carolina’s Te-Hina Paopao (0) Friday during the first round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia. (PC Athletics/Tim Cowie photo)

“I thought Presbyterian did a great job of spacing the floor and utilizing the weak side of the floor. They really did a great job at getting some easy buckets against us,” said South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley. “They made us adjust, and our team did a really good job at adjusting, especially in the third and fourth quarters. Then, we’ve got some some really good players, too, that are sitting up here who were productive and did a great job.”

PC shot 17 of 60 (28.3%) from the field and struggled from the 3-point line for the third straight game, going 3-for-11 (16.7%) from long-range.

South Carolina opened up a 23-point lead on a Fulwiley 3-pointer followed by a bucket from Ashlyn Watkins with 6:36 left before halftime, but PC found a rare offensive spark over the next two minutes with an 8-0 run .

Junior guard Paige Kindseth scored 4 of her 9 points on a pair of mid-range jumpers and sixth-year center Bryanna Brady added two baskets, cutting the lead back down to 38-22.

Playing in her final game, Brady finished with 5 points and 3 rebounds. Tilda Sjökvist, the Big South Tournament MVP, added 9 points on 4 of 21 shooting. She hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer going into halftime to stop a 10-0 South Carolina run that grew the Gamecocks’ lead to 48-22 with 18 seconds left in the second quarter.

Mara Neira added 8 points and Nuria Cunill scored all 6 of her points in the first half to round out the scoring for PC.

With the game out of reach, the Gamecocks held PC to a single field goal – a Neira layup – in the fourth quarter as South Carolina outscored the Blue Hose 17-2 over the final 10 minutes.

The lopsided victory was the second for South Carolina over PC this season. The Gamecocks won a December meeting 99-29.

“They’re very physical team, and they’re strong,” Brady said. “I think that that definitely affected us. They pushed the ball. We had to try to slow down, slow ourselves down because we kept finding ourselves getting sped up by their offense and their transition and whatnot. I mean, they’re a good team. It is what it is. We played hard, and we went out there and tried to dictate things and do the things that we could control. I think that’s an area that we definitely grew from the first (meeting).”

PC won four straight games and nine of its last 10 heading into its tournament matchup with South Carolina. Those victories included a run to the program’s first Big South Conference title and subsequent initial appearance in the NCAA Tournament where a No. 16 seed and long odds awaited them against the Gamecocks.

Sjökvist said losing was not “fun,” but the journey to Columbia and all that awaited the Blue Hose  – the bright lights and crowds at Colonial Life Arena – was.

“Playing playing on the big stage, that’s so fun to me and, I mean yeah, I want to do it again,” she said.

 

 

 

 

 

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