Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Women's NCAA Tourney: Top-Seed South Carolina Sliips Past North Carolina

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Women's NCAA Tourney: Top-Seed South Carolina Sliips Past North Carolina

Article excerpt

Late basket lifts top seed S. Carolina by N. Carolina

For the second straight year, South Carolina found itself trailing late against North Carolina and staring at an early NCAA Tournament exit despite its No. 1 seed.

This time, Tiffany Mitchell and the Gamecocks found a way to regroup, rally and advance. She drove to the basket and scored with 4.2 seconds left to help South Carolina edge North Carolina 67-65 on Friday in the Sweet 16, earning the program's second trip to a regional final. It will face No. 2 seed Florida State on Sunday.

Mitchell finished with 18 points for the No. 1-seeded Gamecocks (33-2), who had to survive a tense finish in Greensboro, N.C., to push past the Tar Heels in a rematch of a Sweet 16 game from last season.

"It is nerve-wracking (late) because you don't want your season to end," coach Dawn Staley said. "But I thought our team was really resilient. ... We were poised and we didn't feel the moment in a way that we got too high emotionally."

The Gamecocks could've been feeling the opposite, too, as North Carolina pushed ahead and led 63-60 entering the last 90 seconds.

Instead, the Gamecocks responded with tough-minded play. There was a 3-pointer from Olivia Gaines that bounced around the rim before dropping through the net to tie it near the 1-minute mark.

There was a defensive stop followed by two free throws from Alaina Coates with 46.1 seconds left for a 65-63 lead after a tussle for a rebound. Then, after UNC's Jessica Washington scored to tie it, there was Mitchell's final drive.

"It was kind of emotional but we stayed the course and kept our heads," Mitchell said. "We knew North Carolina was going to give us their best push and we knew they had runs in them, so we just had to answer them and just keep our head."

Fourth-seeded UNC (26-9) had one more chance, but freshman Jamie Cherry's desperation runner hit the backboard as the horn sounded.

Florida State 66, Arizona State 65 * Leticia Romero scored a career-high 21 points to fuel FSU's victory. …

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