Indiana faces Top Seed and Unbeaten South Carolina in the Sweet 16

Indiana faces Top Seed and Unbeaten South Carolina in the Sweet 16
By Nick Jenkinson/Excel H Sports

        The #4 Indiana Hoosiers are in the Sweet 16 for the third time in the last four years and for the second time they will have to face a #1 seed in order to advance to the Elite 8. On March 27, 2021, Indiana beat NC State 73-70 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas to get their only Elite 8 Appearance in school history. This time the 26-5 Hoosiers face the Number 1 Team in the nation and unbeaten at 34-0 the South Carolina Gamecocks tonight at 5pm on ESPN at the MVP Arena in Albany, New York. The winner advances to the Elite 8 on Sunday at 1pm to take on the winner of #3 Oregon State and #2 Notre Dame which will tip-off at 2:30pm on ESPN.

        Indiana beat Fairfield 89-56 and Oklahoma 75-68 in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament to advance to Albany. The Hoosiers and South Carolina finished the home portion of their schedule 17-0 which are the only two teams remaining in the NCAA Tournament that finished with a perfect home record this season. Mackenize Holmes led the way with 29 points in her final home game as Hoosier and she scored 20 of those points in the second half as she was not going to let what happened last year in a second round NCAA Tournament Loss at Home to Miami Florida happen again this time again a tough and gritty Oklahoma Squad.  Holmes has played 146 games and made 115 starts with a program record 126 wins. The Gorham, Maine Native has scored a program record 2,518 points along with program record 1,038 career field goals made. Holmes with fourth in school history with 985 rebounds, second in blocks with 255 and 7th with 26 career double-doubles.

        Holmes leads the team with 20 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. Sara Scalia averages 16.4 points, Yarden Garzon averages 11.5 points, Sydney Parrish averages 10.4 and Chloe Moore-McNeil is averaging 10.1 points along with a team leading 4.9 assists and 1.3 steals per game. The Hoosiers starting five account for 68.4 points per game of the team’s 79.5 average. That is a concern going into this game with how deep and productive South Carolina is off their bench. The Hoosiers commit 13.3 turnovers per game. Indiana is shooting 51% from the Field, 40% from three-point range and 73% from the free throw line. Head Coach Teri Moren is 226-97 in her 10th season at IU and 425-228 in her 21st season overall. The Hoosiers are 11-9 overall in 10 NCAA Appearances and Moren is 10-5 in the NCAA Tournament as the Hoosiers Head Coach in Six NCAA Appearances.

       The Gamecocks are loaded from top to bottom and led by 6-7 Senior Kamilla Cardoso who leads the team with 13.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. Guards MiLasyia Fulwiley and Te-Hina Paopao average 12.2 and 11.1 points per game respectively. Forwards Ashlyn Watkins and Chloe Kitts are both averaging 9.6 points. Guard Brea Hall averages 8 points per game with Raven Johnson leading the team with 4.8 assists along with 2.1 steals per game while averaging 8 points per game. Forward Sania Fagin averages 6.8 points, Guard Tessa Johnson averages 5.8 points and Center Samkia Walker averages 2 points and 8 minutes per game. Forward Sanyha Jah who played 16 games before being suspended and then leaving the team averaged 3.1 points in 9.2 minutes of action.

      The Ten that play for South Carolina have all played 29 or more games and all but Walker averages more than 15 minutes per game. The Gamecocks average 86.1 points and commit 13.3 turnovers per game. South Carolina is shooting 49% from the field, 39% from three-point range and 68% from the free throw line. Their size and speed are a dangerous combination with seven six foot or taller and the remaining three 5-9 or 5-10. South Carolina has won six games by less than double digits and Cardoso hit the game winner at the buzzer to beat Tennessee 74-73 in the Semifinals of the SEC Tournament on March 9. The Gamecocks steamrolled through the first two rounds 91-39 over Presbyterian and 88-41 over North Carolina with both games taking place on the Gamecocks home floor in Columbia. South Carolina has not scored less than 64 points in a game this season and Indiana’s defensive average is 63.9 points per game.

    In the last five seasons South Carolina has a record of 163-9 and looking to get back to the final four for the fourth year in a row and looking for its third national championship in school history as Head Coach Dawn Staley led them to National Championships in 2017 and 2022. In the 2019-20 season South Carolina went 32-1 before the NCAA Tournament was canceled that season due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Indiana handed the Gamecocks their only loss that season on November 28, 2019, 71-58 In the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Staley is 436-106 in her 16th season at South Carolina with 12 NCAA Tournament Appearances, 5 Final Fours and 2 National Championships. Staley coached at Temple from 2000-2008 went 172-80 with 6 NCAA Tournament Appearances and WNIT Postseason Appearance.  Staley played at the University of Virginia from 1988-1992 and 8 seasons in the WNBA from 1999-2006 and won three Gold Medals with the United States Olympic Team in 1996, 2000 and 2004.

   This will be the sixth all-time between the two programs with South Carolina leading the series 3-2. Indiana has won the last two meetings beating the Gamecocks in Columbia on November 22, 2000, 69-58 and 2019. South Carolina beat Indiana in Columbia on December 28, 1983, 83-76 and twice in Bloomington 74-67 on November 30, 1984, and 95-79 on January 24, 1999.

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