Oregon State took care of business in round 1, demolishing Florida State 83-59. They’ll have a much tougher task in round 2, when they take on the Hemisfair Region’s #1 seed, the South Carolina Gamecocks. Here’s what the Beavers are facing.
- Record: 23-4
- Top Scorer: Zia Cooke - 15.8 PPG, 2.9 RPG
- Head Coach: Dawn Staley - 12 seasons, 5 SEC Championships, 1 National Championship (2017)
- PPG: 76.9
- OPPG: 59.1
- First Round Result: 79-53 Win vs. #16 Mercer
Last season the Gamecocks were one of the favorites to win the NCAA Tournament, before the season was ended prematurely due to the pandemic. This season, the team hasn’t looked as unbeatable as last year, but they’re pretty close. The Gamecocks have only lost against 4 teams this year; two of those losses were against NCAA Tournament #1 seeds, NC State and UConn, one was against a 2 seed, Texas A&M, and one was against a 3 seed, Tennessee.
Against everyone else, they’ve looked unstoppable. One of the keys to their success has been South Carolina’s absolute dominance of the rebounding game; this season they’ve outrebounded opponents 1292 to 881. As a per game average that’s 47.9 vs 32.6. That rebounding dominance has been led by one of South Carolina’s stars, Forward Aliyah Boston.
Boston is averaging 11.9 rebounds per game, and 13.9 points per game. If averaging a double double isn’t enough for you, she’s also blocked 74 shots this season, and is third on the team in steals, with 31. She’s going to be the toughest person on the court for Oregon State to deal with.
She won’t be the only problem for the Beavers. South Carolina also has a pair of excellent guards in Zia Cooke and Destanni Henderson that is going to make coming up with a defensive scheme very hard. Cooke is the Gamecocks leading scorer, with 15.8 points per game, and has hit the most threes for the team with 37. Henderson shoots less threes but at a better rate, she’s hit 35 out of 83 for a .422 shooting percentage, and is averaging 12.1 points per game.
South Carolina’s starting five are rounded out by forward Victoria Saxton and guard Brea Beal. Saxton gives USC another great rebounder and shot blocker, and Beal is a solid all around presence. The Beavers have the lineup to contend with South Carolina’s guards, but those forwards are going to be an issue.
There’s going to be a lot of pressure on Taylor Jones and Jelena Mitrovic to make the rebounding battle competitive. The last time someone beat South Carolina, in USC’s final game of the season against Texas A&M, the Aggies only lost the battle of the boards 44-40. That cut down Gamecocks second chance opportunities, which has also been a team strength.
Oregon State is going to have to play the best game they’ve played all season to have a chance on Tuesday. I think the team is up to the task, but they can’t afford too many turnovers or the cold shooting stretches they’ve been prone to. Tip off is set for 4 PM PT tomorrow, with ESPN airing the game.