No. 1 South Carolina women beat Creighton, reach Final Four

William Howard-USA TODAY Sports
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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Aliyah Boston scored 19 points and led top-seeded South Carolina to its second straight Final Four with an 80-50 victory over Creighton on Sunday night, ending the 10th-seeded Bluejays’ surprise run through the NCAA Tournament.

The Gamecocks (33-2) advanced to their fourth Final Four in the past seven tournaments.

Boston lost her streak of 27 double-doubles in a row, ending with seven rebounds in the blowout. But she gained a much bigger prize – a shot at redemption in Minneapolis next week.

Last year, Boston missed a short putback in the closing moments of the Gamecocks’ 66-65 loss to eventual NCAA champion Stanford in the national semifinals. She collapsed in tears on the court and has been almost single-minded in wanting to finish what the team missed out on then.

The Gamecocks will face either Louisville or Michigan on Friday in the Final Four. The top-seeded Cardinals play the No. 3 seed Wolverines for the Wichita Region title on Monday night.

South Carolina danced and celebrated the win on Sunday as Boston held up two fingers for its back-to-back Final Fours.

It was a disheartening end for the feel-good Bluejays (23-10), who had burst through the Greensboro Region to reach the Elite Eight. Lauren Jensen had 12 points to lead the Bluejays.

South Carolina had struggled on offense down the stretch this season, especially in the past four games – shooting less than 36% in the SEC Tournament final loss to Kentucky and in NCAA wins against Howard, Miami and North Carolina.

This time, the Gamecocks were efficient, free-flowing and on target. They made six of their first seven shots to take a 13-5 lead four minutes in. When Creighton closed to 13-10, South Carolina took off on a game-changing 31-10 surge to take control for good.

Boston was her unstoppable self against an opponent without a player taller than 6-foot-1. She made six of seven shots the first two quarters for 14 points. Destanni Henderson had 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting including a pair of 3-pointers.

The Gamecocks led 46-25 at the break and built the lead to 32 points late in the fourth quarter.

Brea Beal and Henderson finished with 12 points apiece while Victaria Saxton had 11, giving South Carolina four starters in double figures.

Creighton had hoped its unconventional, fire-away-from-3 attack might take the Gamecocks by surprise as it did to seventh-seeded Colorado, second-seeded Iowa and third-seeded Iowa State.

But much like No. 15 seed St. Peter’s on the men’s side in its lopsided loss to North Carolina earlier Sunday, the grind against Power Five programs proved too much to keep Cinderella dancing. Creighton could not match up sizewise with South Carolina and were outrebounded 43-23.

THE BIG PICTURE

Creighton: Bluejays coach Jim Flanery said it Saturday – he had a bunch of sophomores running around out there and overachieving. Next year, they’ll be back with more experience and a clear direction of how good they can be. That could mean another successful NCAA run for the Big East Conference’s Bluejays.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks have discussed a singular expectation – to win it all – since they lost to Stanford in the Final Four last year. South Carolina has arrived at that watershed moment, and are eager to collect the team’s second national title in five years.