South Carolina WBB cruises past NC State into national championship game

It’s Final Four time for Dawn Staley’s No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks.

The No. 1 overall seed for the 2024 NCAA Tournament is facing 3-seed North Carolina State on Friday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. The winner advances to Sunday’s national championship game.

The State’s Payton Titus and Chapel Fowler are on site in Cleveland to provide updates from the game. Follow along as USC tries to advance and play for a third national championship in nine years against Iowa or UConn.

Final: South Carolina 78, NC State 59

It’s official: South Carolina is headed to the national championship game.

The top-seeded Gamecocks dominate No. 3 NC State in the second half, win by 19 points and move to 37-0 this season. They will play the winner of the No. 1 Iowa vs. No. 3 UConn game set to tip off in roughly 30 minutes at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

USC is 2-0 in national championship games in its program history, beating Mississippi State in the 2017 national title game in Dallas and UConn in the 2022 national title game in Minneapolis.

Center Kamilla Cardoso had a team-high 22 points for USC, and forward Ashlyn Watkins had eight points and a career-high 19 rebounds. Guards Raven Johnson (13 points) and Te-Hina Paopao (10) were also in double digits.

NC State, playing in only the second Final Four in program history and first since 1998, fell to 31-7 and got 20 points from guard Aziaha James in the loss. The Wolfpack were one of only eight women’s teams ever to reach a Final Four after starting a season unranked in Division I history.

Gamecocks in control

Coach Dawn Staley just took a timeout to lay into to her team for some poor transition defense, but there hasn’t been much to nitpick outside of that. USC leads NC State by 22 points, 67-45, with 6:52 to go in the game. South Carolina is 15-25 (60%) in the second half. The Wolfpack are just 4-16 (25%).

USC is dominating on the boards (+19) and has 38 points in the paint to the Wolfpack’s 16. Nine of 10 Gamecocks who’ve played in this game have scored (the only who hasn’t is Chloe Kitts).

And Ashlyn Watkins has eight points and 19 rebounds. It’s been that kind of night — well, second half — for a USC team that seems like a lock to play in Sunday’s title game at this point.

End Q3: South Carolina 61, NC State 37

After a close first half, the No. 1 Gamecocks take control. They outscored NC State 29-6 in the third period and now lead the game by 24 points. USC is one quarter away from playing in the national championship game.

The Gamecocks ended the quarter on 17-1 run over the final 6:50 and will enter the final period on cruise control. Kamilla Cardoso has 22 points and 11 rebounds, and five different Gamecocks have made at least one 3-pointer. USC is 7-18 overall on threes. NC State shot 1-11 (9.1%) as a team in that period.

A huge USC run

It’s 48-36 South Carolina less than four minutes into the second quarter. The Gamecocks came out of the break with a vengeance and have outscored the Wolfpack 16-5 thus far. NC State is missing some shots and looking gassed; South Carolina, meanwhile, is pushing the pace and is up to 51% field goal shooting.

After briefly exiting with an injury, USC center Kamilla Cardoso has run up and down the floor normally and has scored twice, bringing her to 20 points on 9-11 shooting.

USC’s 12-point lead is its largest of the game.

Halftime: South Carolina 32, NC State 31

It’s a close one at halftime. The Gamecocks by as many as six points that quarter (30-24) but it’s down to one point at the break. South Carolina could be dealing with a major absence as star center Kamilla Cardoso (who has 16 of the team’s 32 points) went to the locker room after a mid-quarter injury.

Aziaha James has 10 for the Wolfpack, who entered this game as an 11.5-point betting underdog but are hanging tough with the Gamecocks and haven’t trailed by more than six.

The Cardoso quarter

What a stretch for USC starting center Kamilla Cardoso. In less than five minutes, she just scored all 10 of South Carolina’s points on 4-4 shooting and 2-2 free throw shooting to give the Gamecocks their largest lead yet (six points, 26-20). At the Q2 media timeout, South Carolina leads NC State, 26-24. Cardoso has 14 points overall and hasn’t missed from the field.

End Q1: South Carolina 16, NC State 16

The No. 1 overall seed Gamecocks are tied with the No. 3 Wolfpack after one quarter here in Cleveland. South Carolina trailed by three, 12-9, but went on a short run to end things. Freshman guard MiLaysia Fulwiley’s 3-pointer in the final minute helped ensure USC wouldn’t trail after the first quarter for the first time this tournament.

The Gamecocks are 7-17 from the field and are getting slightly out-rebounded 10-9. NC State is moving the ball well and has benefited from three steals and four second chance points.

Aziaha James starts hot

The reigning Portland 4 regional most outstanding player, NC State guard Aziaha James has led the team in scoring all four games this NCAA Tournament. She’s started off hot tonight with two 3-pointers before the media timeout and helped NC State take a 12-9 lead at the 4:31 mark of Q1.

Betting line

South Carolina is an 11.5-point betting favorite against N.C. State, according to ESPN BET. That is USC’s smallest point spread of the NCAA Tournament (previously -15.5 vs. Oregon State) and comes as the Gamecocks have won but failed to cover in consecutive games.

Series history

South Carolina is 12-20 all time against N.C. State, the second North Carolina school it’s faced this tournament (also UNC in the second round). But the Gamecocks are 4-2 against the Wolfpack in the Staley era.

USC and N.C. State most recently split a home-and-home series played in 2020 and 2021. The No. 8 Wolfpack upset No. 1 South Carolina, 54-46, in December 2020 (which is still USC’s last home loss to date). The following season, No. 1 South Carolina won its season opener at No. 5 NC State, 66-57.

The late game: Iowa vs. UConn

Roughly 30 minutes after the conclusion of Friday’s South Carolina-N.C. State game, No. 1 Iowa and No. 3 UConn will play the second of two national semifinals here at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. The Hawkeyes, of course, feature transcendent guard and NCAA all-time leading scorer Caitlin Clark.

Clark had 41 points, 12 assists and nine 3-pointers as Iowa beat defending national champion LSU in the Elite Eight to get to the Final Four. And UConn has a star of its own in guard Paige Bueckers, who has averaged 28 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 3.3 steals per game in the NCAA Tournament after missing all of last year with a knee injury.

The Friday semifinal winners will face off Sunday afternoon for the national championship.

What time is the Final Four tonight?

  • Who: No. 1 South Carolina (36-0) vs. No. 3 NC State (31-6)

  • Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio

  • When: 7 p.m. Friday

  • TV: ESPN (Ryan Ruocco, Rebecca Lobo, Holly Rowe)

  • Radio: 107.5 FM in Columbia area (see full list of affiliates here)

  • Stream: Via or the ESPN app

  • Next up: The winner advances to the 2024 national championship game and will play either No. 1 Iowa or No. 3 UConn on Sunday afternoon in Cleveland

Tweets by gogamecocks