AP Sports

South Carolina and Oregon State meet again in NCAA Tournament with trip to Final Four on the line

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — South Carolina was far from perfect in advancing to the Albany 1 Regional Final.

At this time of year, it’s about winning and that’s something Dawn Staley’s team has done every game this season.

“At this point, it’s about just being able to play to the habits that you’ve created all season long, and when they go haywire, you’re just trying to, in real time, make adjustments. That’s what it’s about at this stage of the game,” Staley said. “So not a whole lot of screaming and yelling. Just kind of showing them what we need to do. I think they know. I think this moment will allow them to just rely on those habits.”

The Gamecocks (35-0), who nearly blew a 22-point lead before holding off Indiana in the Sweet 16, are three wins away from completing the 10th undefeated season in women’s NCAA Tournament history. Next up on Sunday is Oregon State, which advanced this far for the first time since 2018.

“We come in with the mentality like hey, we’ve got to win because it’s that part of the season where it’s win or go home and I know we definitely don’t want to go home,” said Gamecocks guard Te-Hina Pao Pao.

Pao Pao is no stranger to Oregon State having started her career at rival Oregon before transferring to South Carolina this year.

“I thought I escaped Oregon State coming to South Carolina. But it’s going to be so much fun,” she said. “I have a really good relationship with Scott. His team is in the Pac-12. But I’m very well known with them. … I just told them we’ve got to lock in on defense tomorrow, and it’s going to be a slow, methodical game, but at the same time we’ve got to play our game and just speed them up.”

The Beavers know they have a tall task in front of them. They’ve faced South Carolina three times over the last decade in the NCAA Tournament. Each time they’ve come away with a loss.

“As you look at them, they’re undefeated for a reason,” Oregon State coach Scott Rueck said. “There’s not a lot of weakness out there. Very well-coached, experienced coach, and they’ve got a little bit of everything.”

Rueck knows that his team has to do a better job of taking care of the basketball. The Beavers committed a season-high 26 turnovers in the Sweet 16 win over Notre Dame.

“Turnovers were a problem for us yesterday, so we’re going to have to take care of the ball and handle the pressure,” Oregon State’s Talia von Oelhoffen said. “But I think if we do that, we can get the shots we want, so it’s going to come down to hitting shots.”

BATTLE OF THE BIGS

The game within the game will take place inside the paint. South Carolina and Oregon State’s Sweet 16 victories highlighted their big stars 6-foot-7 senior center Kamilla Cardoso and 6-4 sophomore forward Raegan Beers.

Cardoso, a dominant force all season, led the Gamecocks with 22 points, seven rebounds and three blocks against the Hoosiers and she’s prepared to square off against Beers.

“It’s gonna be a great matchup,” Cardoso said. “I’m excited. She’s a great player, offensively, defensively. I just got to try and do my work early and box out, rebound.”

Playing in the Pac-12, Beers isn’t a stranger to battling bigs and compared her matchup with Cardoso to playing Stanford’s veteran forward Cameron Brink, so she’s up for the taller challenge.

“Obviously, we can’t go into her as much because she is 6-foot-7 tall, lengthy and can block your shot like no other,” Beers said. “Finishing up in a way like we have been against other tall post players in the Pac-12 is really important, especially tomorrow when I get some really phenomenal post-play. We are excited to figure out that challenge tomorrow.”

AMERICA’S TEAM?

The Beavers are pushing to get the backing of the country as they continue their push in the NCAA Tournament. Oregon State players put out a TikTok

“I just think this team is so incredible and so special,” von Oelhoffen said. “So we might not have the big names in the commercials and TikTok stars yet. We’re trying. … I think that’s all that means is just we’re America’s team, we’re selfless, we play together, we’re a family, and that’s a story, that’s a headline that I can get behind and I think a lot of people should, too.”

___

AP freelancer Spencer Ripchik contributed to this story.

___

AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-womens-bracket/ and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness

Tags

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP

See all Hill.TV See all Video

main area bottom custom html

MAIN Area bottom

Main area bottom

Top Stories

See All

Most Popular

Load more