March Madness: South Carolina overcomes a slow start to cruise through South Florida to the Sweet 16

March 19, 2023; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks Goalkeeper Dia Cook (1) shoots South Florida Bulls Air Force Goalkeeper Wilson (22) in the first half at Colonial Life Arena. Mandatory credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina was not at its best on offense in the NCAA Tournament. But it was more than good enough to advance to the Sweet 16.

The ranked Gamecocks overcame a slow start Sunday to secure a 76-45 win over No. 8 South Florida and securing their spot in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

South Florida put South Carolina to the test early, opening up a 16-12 lead while holding the Gamecocks to 35.7% shooting from the field. But the Gamecocks stretched their 21 second quarter points to 33-29 at halftime. Then they took over.

The team that made a season of dominating the second half stifled the bulls after the end of the first half and relied on the depth of the attack to escape with the match. South Florida scored only 16 points in the entire second half, matching their first quarter total. The Gamecocks limited the Bulls to 29.3% shooting from the field and forced 13 into South Florida. They won on the rebound, 55-28.

With 2:10 left in the fourth quarter and South Carolina leading 69-40, head coach Don Staley emptied the bench to allow the South Carolina crowd to give a standing ovation to the outgoing seniors in their final home game.

Alia Boston dominated the post with 11 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal. Fellow senior Zia Cook led the offense with 21 points while shooting 8-of-19 from the field. Nine Gamecocks players played 15 minutes or more as the South Carolina bench once again proved to be a significant advantage. Senior Leticia Amiher led the competition with 10 points, six rebounds and a block off the bench, while second guard Bree Hall added seven points and six rebounds in 16 minutes.

The Gamecocks improved to 34-0 as they seek to secure a second consecutive national championship.

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