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South Carolina students soak up national championship win

The students inside the Russell House couldn’t sit still. They watched the clock, with “Sandstorm” blaring, counting down the final seconds of the South Carolina women’s basketball team’s championship game against Iowa.

Five ... four ... three...

Anyone standing near the doors of the watch party inside USC’s student center? Move out of the way.

Two ... one ... buzzer.

The Gamecocks are the national champions.

Confetti rained down in Cleveland on Sunday, and the water splashed around in Columbia.

University of South Carolina students and fans held a party at the campus fountain Sunday in front of the Thomas Cooper Library after the Gamecocks women’s team picked up its third national title with an 87-75 win over Iowa that cemented a perfect 38-0 season.

“This is unbelievable!” was a phrase heard over and over again as thousands threw themselves into the cold, shallow water. “Sandstorm” played again, this time on individual speakers. Students took photos, pulled each other into the epicenter and a vibrant rainbow glowed above it all.

“Dawn Staley’s revenge tour has been legendary,” sophomore Jason Schmideler said. “And I could not be happier to be here for part of it.”

The tradition of celebrating championships and milestone wins at — and in — the campus fountain has been part of South Carolina’s history since the the men’s and women’s basketball teams’ historic seasons in 2017. Students ran into the fountain outside Colonial Life Arena earlier this year after USC’s men’s basketball team defeated Kentucky in January.

This was the first time students have celebrated a championship on campus since the women won their second title in 2022.

University of South Carolina students celebrate on campus Sunday in the fountain in front of the Thomas Cooper Library after the Gamecocks women’s basketball team’s national championship win over Iowa.
University of South Carolina students celebrate on campus Sunday in the fountain in front of the Thomas Cooper Library after the Gamecocks women’s basketball team’s national championship win over Iowa.

Junior Grayson Fritz jumped in the fountain his freshman year, watched the Gamecocks fall to the Hawkeyes his sophomore year in 2023 and went right back to the fountain Sunday. He and his friends held their own watch party just steps away from campus and were itching to see how students would react to the title win this year.

“It was an amazing feeling. I was hoping everyone would have the same tradition this year,” Fritz said. “I came out and it’s absolutely electric out here in South Carolina.”

Splishing and splashing around, the brick walkaways quickly grew slippery. No one cared. Shoes and socks were left in piles. Fans jumped in wearing whatever they had on — South Carolina t-shirts and jeans, or for a few fraternity brothers, suits and ties for the celebration.

It wasn’t much longer until fans walking from downtown started joining in on the fun. Alumni gathered around to witness the party breaking out on campus.

“This is amazing for us,” said Eric Jordan, class of 1993. “When we were in school here, the football team wasn’t great. The baseball team was starting to do pretty well. But now, Coach Staley has been amazing and putting together her program, the whole excitement behind the program is great. We just look forward to a lot more days here at the fountain.”

Running mascara from tears of adrenaline and joy; cans of High Noon seltzer scattered around the mulch’s edge. Half the student population had never experienced the euphoria of a national championship, and some got it their first year of college.

The blue sky also grew closer toward the golden hour, almost an hour after the final buzzer sounded in Cleveland. The party wasn’t slowing down.

“It’s indescribable,” freshman Ashlyn Davidson said, her shorts dripping wet. “It’s just the best experience this year.”

Eventually the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds began to disperse, with the dripping-wet fans ready to dry off and continue celebrating the national championship elsewhere. Everyone left with ear-to-ear smiles on their faces.

That just happened. It really did.

University of South Carolina students celebrate on campus Sunday in the fountain in front of the Thomas Cooper Library after the Gamecocks women’s basketball team’s national championship win over Iowa.
University of South Carolina students celebrate on campus Sunday in the fountain in front of the Thomas Cooper Library after the Gamecocks women’s basketball team’s national championship win over Iowa.