An indomitable performance by Aliyah Boston and a stingy defense helped the South Carolina Gamecocks take down the Louisville Cardinals, 72-59, and punch their ticket to Sunday’s national championship game, where they will look to win their second title in program history.
South Carolina came out of the gates flying, scoring the first seven points of the game and forcing Louisville coach Jeff Walz to call a timeout when they went down, 11-2. The Gamecocks overwhelmed the Cardinals on both ends of the floor, as they just could not get any good looks on offense while struggling to figure out a way to slow down Boston and co. on defense.
— ESPN (@espn) April 1, 2022
While Louisville eventually settled in and was able to get their offense going, it was clear that they faced an uphill battle against Dawn Staley’s squad. In particular, Boston was able to impose herself on the glass early, as the national player of the year ended the first frame with four points and five boards as the team took a 17-10 lead into the second.
It did not take long for the Cardinals to get in a rhythm in the game’s second frame. While the Gamecocks scored first, Louisville began swarming, turning defense into offense and going on a 12-0 run in the blink of an eye — thanks in large part to the play of Emily Engstler — to take the lead before a Boston bucket settled things down.
— Louisville WBB (@UofLWBB) April 1, 2022
Ultimately, South Carolina was able to create a little bit of breathing room heading into the half, as they took a 34-28 lead into the locker room. Boston and Brea Beal led the way for SC with eight points each — Boston pitched in eight rebounds and three assists, too. Engstler had 10 points, seven rebounds, three steals, and a block for the Cardinals, who were in the game despite top scorer Hailey Van Lith struggling to get going, as she scored two points on 1-for-3 shooting.
Post up for Aliyah Boston and it's a *triple* team. pic.twitter.com/MMTdfSZHVL
— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) April 2, 2022
Much like they did at the start of the game, South Carolina began the third quarter on fire. They managed to get their lead up to as many as 15 points, but once again, Louisville had a response. Thanks to a 10-3 run, they were able to chip away and get the deficit down to six … and then Boston converted an and-one with less than five seconds remaining in the frame to take some of the wind out of the Cardinals’ sails and bring a nine-point lead into the fourth.
3Q: Player of the Year type of moment for @AA_Boston! Rips the momentum away from the Cardinals in the closing seconds of the third!
— GamecockWBB (@GamecockWBB) April 2, 2022
The fourth quarter was much of the same, as Louisville struggled to have a consistent answer for the length that South Carolina possessed on defense while Boston’s gravity on the glass was far too much for them to overcome. By the time the game came to an end, Boston had 23 points, 18 rebounds, and four assists, giving her double-double number 29 in 36 games this season. Every Gamecock starter scored in double-figures. Engstler’s 18 points and nine rebounds led the Cardinals, but she fouled out with 4:56 left in the game. Olivia Cochran and Kianna Smith both had 14 points, while Van Lith had nine.
South Carolina will take on either UConn or Stanford, the defending national champions, on Sunday evening.