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Women's Final Four: Aliyah Boston powers South Carolina to win over Louisville

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The top team in women’s college basketball will play for the national title.

No. 1 overall seed South Carolina beat Louisville, 72-59, to advance to the national title game for the first time since the Gamecocks won the national title in 2017.

Louisville cut South Carolina’s lead to six with just under 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter but a crucial late play essentially ended the Cardinals’ chances of a comeback. Star South Carolina forward Aliyah Boston grabbed an offensive rebound with eight seconds left and scored as she was fouled by All-ACC forward Emily Engstler. That was Engstler’s fourth foul and Boston made the free throw to push South Carolina’s lead to nine before the break.

Engstler then fouled out with 4:56 to go while she chased a loose ball and South Carolina had a nine-point lead. The senior finished the game with 18 points and nine rebounds in her final college game.

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - APRIL 01: Aliyah Boston #4 of the South Carolina Gamecocks reacts with teammates in the first quarter against the Louisville Cardinals during the 2022 NCAA Women's Final Four semifinal game at Target Center on April 01, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
South Carolina will play for the national title after beating Louisville Friday night in the women's Final Four. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Boston was unstoppable for South Carolina in the paint and even drew triple teams at times. She finished with 23 points and 18 rebounds. It was her 29th double-double in 36 games for the Gamecocks this season and she put an exclamation mark on the game with 3:11 to go when she hit a three on just her 48th attempt of the season.

Louisville looked overmatched to start the game as South Carolina jumped out to an 11-2 lead and multiple Cardinal shots failed to hit the rim. But Louisville calmed down as the first half went on and even took the lead at one point before trailing by six at halftime.

The Cardinals appeared to have another run in them as the third quarter closed with six straight points to cut the lead to 54-48. But Boston’s and-one proved that any hope of a comeback was a mirage.

South Carolina has been dominant

The Gamecocks lost by a point in the 2021 semifinals to Stanford after Boston's putback bounced off the rim at the buzzer. And the year before that, South Carolina was the No. 1 team in the country before the NCAA tournament was called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A national title on Sunday night against UConn will give South Carolina a nearly indisputable claim that it's the best women's basketball program running. And there's no disputing who has been the best team all season.

South Carolina is 34-2 and its two losses to Missouri and Kentucky came by a combined three points. The Gamecocks have won all five of their NCAA tournament games by three possessions or more so far and two of the wins have come by 30 or more points.

USC had been dominant so far throughout the tournament despite making fewer than 40% of its shots through the first three rounds. But South Carolina shot 51% in a 30-point win over Creighton in the Elite Eight and shot 47% from the field against Louisville despite going 6-of-17 from three.

South Carolina’s defense also did a great job of taking away the three from Louisville’s offense. The Cardinals didn’t make a three until inside the final two minutes of the game and finished just 1-of-8 from behind the arc after shooting 36% on 560 attempts in its previous 33 games.