One down. Five to go.
The undefeated South Carolina women’s basketball team takes the next step toward a national championship repeat with Sunday’s game against South Florida at Colonial Life Arena.
USC, the No. 1 overall seed in the bracket, cruised past No. 16 seed Norfolk State 72-40 in a Friday first-round game, while No. 8 USF beat No. 9 Marquette 67-65 in overtime to set up an intriguing second-round matchup — with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.
Here’s what you need to know:
South Carolina vs. South Florida game info
Who: No. 1 South Carolina (33-0) vs. No. 8 South Florida (27-6)
Where: Colonial Life Arena in Columbia
When: 1 p.m. Sunday
Stream: Via ESPN or the ESPN app
Next up: The winner of South Carolina-South Florida will advance to a Sweet 16 game next Friday, March 25, at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville. That opponent won’t be determined until Monday.
Gamecocks want more after Round 1
When you’re 33-0, you have the luxury of nitpicking a 32-point first round NCAA Tournament win that was never really in doubt.
South Carolina did a lot of things well Friday against Norfolk State, including assisting on 17 of 21 made field goals, racking up 11 blocks and 11 steals and putting its foot on the gas in the third quarter for a game-icing run.
But guard Brea Beal’s hoping the Gamecocks can play with a better sense of urgency Sunday against USF and avoid a few of their more disappointing results from Friday — including the fact USC had only out-rebounded Norfolk State 24-23 at halftime and shot 25 of 41 on free throws.
South Carolina, an undeniably talented offensive team, also endured a few extended scoring droughts against Norfolk State before kicking into high gear. Those dry spells are easy to overcome against a No. 16 seed — less so against a more talented USF squad.
South Florida not ‘fazed’ by challenge
USF coach Jose Fernandez recognizes the task ahead of him — South Carolina has won 38 straight games and was the wire-to-wire AP No. 1 team in the country this season — but his Bulls have their share of big-game experience.
In recent seasons, USF have played Connecticut, Tennessee, Oregon and Stanford; this season, the Bulls upset No. 22 Texas by five points before losing by eight points to then-No. 8 NC State in back-to-back December road games.
So consider South Florida self-aware, but also confident, after mounting a 11-point second-half comeback against Marquette and earning the right to play the No. 1 Gamecocks on their home court with everything on the table.
A key battle: South Carolina’s forwards, who didn’t get as involved as coach Dawn Staley would’ve liked Friday, against USF’s “pack line” defense, which will sell out to stop opponents int the paint and dare them to make jump shots.
South Carolina vs. South Florida game notes
This is the first meeting between South Carolina and South Florida. The Gamecocks are 23-8 all-time against current American Athletic Conference programs, though, and beat Memphis by 25 points earlier this season.
USC is 4-0 all-time against No. 8 seeds.
South Carolina is 6-0 in six previous games against ranked opponents this year. USF received votes in the final AP Top 25 and was No. 24 in the final coaches poll.
USF won its 27th game Friday against Marquette, tying the 2014-15 and 2008-09 seasons for the best single-season win total in school history.
Coach Dawn Staley can win her 400th game at South Carolina on Sunday. She is already the school’s all-time leader in wins and winning percentage for basketball coaches (men’s or women’s).
The winner of this game won’t learn their March 25 Sweet Sixteen opponent until Monday. No. 4 UCLA is playing No. 13 Sacramento State and No. 5 Oklahoma is playing No. 12 Portland in first round games later Friday. The winners of those games will play Monday to also advance to the Sweet Sixteen in Greenville Region 1.
Gamecocks and Bulls players to watch
Laeticia Amihere, F, South Carolina: Amihere, a reserve forward, has been pouring in points as of late. She tied for the team lead with 11 points against Norfolk State and has now scored 10-plus points in three of her past four games — easily her best stretch of the season.
Zia Cooke, G, South Carolina: Friday wasn’t the most efficient outing for Cooke, a third-team All American who shot 3-12 against Norfolk State. But her willingness to attack the basket and create offense proved quite valuable for USC, like it has all season.
Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu, F, South Florida: In Friday’s win over Marquette, Fankam Mendjiadeu became only the third player in the past 20 years of the NCAA women’s tournament to put up at least 20 points and 15 rebounds on 85% shooting, per ESPN Stats & Info.
Carla Brito, F, South Florida: Brito, a freshman wing from Spain, was second on the team with 15 points against Marquette. That was the most she’d scored in a game since 20 against ECU on Jan. 31.