Welcome home, champs: ‘Repeat Tour’ begins for South Carolina women’s basketball team

Raven Johnson coined the phrase “Revenge Tour” to describe this year’s South Carolina women’s basketball season.

And Johnson already has a new motto for the 2024-25 team.

“The revenge tour is over. Now, it is time for the repeat tour,” the Gamecocks guard said Monday to a raucous crowd at Colonial Life Arena.

South Carolina completed its revenge tour with a 38-0 record capped off by beating Iowa 87-75 for the national championship on Sunday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. It’s the program’s third national title, with the other two coming in 2017 and 2022. The Gamecocks are the 10th team in women’s basketball history to complete a full season unbeaten.

The Gamecocks flew home from Cleveland on Monday afternoon and spent about 15 minutes celebrating with fans inside Colonial Life Arena.

The 2024 championship came after a year after a loss to Iowa in the national semifinals with a USC team that was also undefeated and featured such future WNBA players as Rookie of the Year Aaliyah Boston. But this year’s Gamecocks, who were ranked No. 6 in The Associated Press preseason poll, exceeded expectations and turned into a juggernaut with contributions from everyone on the roster.

“Each and everyone of them took their turn and made an impact on any given night,” Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley said Monday. “They did it in a way that lifted up each other. It truly was an organic chemistry.

“I thought the team we fielded last year would have won the national championship, but it didn’t happen. Half of the players on this team felt that loss and vowed to bring it home. Sometimes, they had a swag about them and confidence about them. Sometimes it was a little bit too much for us to take.”

One of those moments came before Sunday’s championship game, Staley said. She recalled overhearing players talking confidently in the locker room about what they planned to do to the Hawkeyes. The Gamecocks started slow, trailing by double figures in the first quarter before rallying and eventually pulling away.

USC became the first team to trail by double figures and win by double figures in a women’s national championship game, according to ESPN.

“This team, I am incredibly proud of them for everything they have been through and everything they sacrificed,” Staley said.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner introduced Staley as the “GOAT (Greatest of All Time) of women’s basketball.” That recognition drew the biggest applause from the estimated 6,000 people who showed up at the Colonial Life Arena to welcome the national champions home.

Staley had a busy Monday, appearing on NBC’s “Today Show” and ABC’s “Good Morning America” before flying back to Columbia.

She appeared from the Colonial Life Arena tunnel dancing with the national championship trophy. Each player was introduced to the crowd.

The event was held indoors in part because of Monday’s solar eclipse. USC also canceled classes from 1:30-3:30 p.m. so students could attend the event.

“The fact that our president and our board members chose to close class. They take winning and success very seriously,” Staley said. “We hope that this is an annual day off.”