South Carolina, Aliyah Boston beat Louisville in Final Four
Final: South Carolina 72, Louisville 59
After falling just short in last year’s Final Four, No. 1 South Carolina took care of business against No. 1 Louisville, 72-59, to advance to the title game.
Double-doubles are typical for Gamecocks star Aliyah Boston, but the Naismith Player of the Year took it to the next level by scoring 23 points, 18 rebounds and four assists — and even hit a 3-pointer to match Louisville's output from the entire team.
Not only did @aa_boston lock in her 29th double-double of the season, she also owns a new single-season rebounding record!— GamecockWBB (@GamecockWBB) April 2, 2022
51-38, Gamecocks, 4:34 to go in the third. pic.twitter.com/i2eYkgzJrm
South Carolina’s defense stifled Louisville offensively. The Gamecocks limited leading scorer Hailey Van Lith, keeping her to only 4 for 10 shooting. She had only 9 points after reaching 20+ in the four previous NCAA tournament games.
Senior forward Emily Engstler stepped up, scoring 18 points while pulling down nine boards, but fouled out with less than 5 minutes in the fourth.
Engstler retreated to the bench in tears feeling the national championship hopes slip away, something South Carolina knew well just a year ago.
South Carolina will next play for the program's second national title.
"We're not going home... We've got ONE MORE GAME!"— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) April 2, 2022
- @aa_boston#WFinalFour x @GamecockWBB pic.twitter.com/H29dTiLgia
Louisville proud, South Carolina ready for next test after Final Four
After the 72-59 loss to South Carolina, Louisville head coach Jeff Walz choked up relaying his pride in his team.
“There's not one second that I regret about a damn thing that we did,” Walz said. “I've never been prouder of the group, they've absolutely been a joy.”
Senior Emily Engstler doesn’t have regrets either, despite fouling out of her last ever collegiate game — she went out the way she wanted.
“I'm not going to change the way I play,” Engstler said. “I was gonna put everything I had for these girls and for myself and for our fans.”
Very emotional presser for Louisville, which had an excellent season.— Augusta Stone 🔥 (@augustalstone) April 2, 2022
Hailey Van Lith is fighting back tears reflecting on how seniors Emily Engstler and Kianna Smith have shown her leadership.
Meanwhile, South Carolina was primed for their next game taking lessons from this matchup.
“I think just with anything, life in general, it's gonna throw tests at you. You have to pass the test or you have to retake it," Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley said.
After letting Kentucky take over in the fourth quarter of the SEC title game or falling just short in last year’s Final Four, the Gamecocks learned.
“We knew that we're going to be tested,” Aliyah Boston said. “This is something, that hump that we need to get over and we're able to get over that tonight.”
Over the hump and onto the national championship game as they await the winner of No. 1 Stanford vs. No. 2 UConn.
South Carolina leads Louisville 57-48 Q3
South Carolina got cooking in the third-quarter — starting with Zia Cooke.
Cooke opened the third on a quick 5-0 spurt launching the Gamecocks’ offensive streak that helped push the lead to as many as 15 points.
After shooting 2-9 from the perimeter in the first half, South Carolina went 3-5 in the third. The Gamecocks are +15 on in 3-pointers over the Cardinals, with Louisville 0 for 3 from distance.
The Gamecocks are just a quarter away from avenging last year’s Final Four loss, unless the Cardinals can pick up more momentum. Hailey Van Lith, who score 20+ points throughout the tournament, has just four points on 2-5 shooting.
Halftime: South Carolina 34, Louisville 28
Louisville took South Carolina’s early start personally. The Cardinals rallied on a 10-2 run to take their first lead of the game.
But the Gamecocks gained their composure to lead it by 6 after two quarters.
Cardinals Emily Engstler leads all scorers with 10 points while Aliyah Boston and Brea Beal lead the Gamecocks with 8 points a piece.
IT'S ENGSTLER TIME ... she is going off!!— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) April 1, 2022
Back-to-Back-to-Back Buckets! #WFinalFour x @UofLWBB pic.twitter.com/jxcwm1ULWL
South Carolina 17, Louisville 10 at the end of Q1
We got ourselves a game, folks.
It was all South Carolina for eight minutes of the first quarter. The Gamecocks took a quick 7-0 lead by smothering Louisville defensively.
Midway through the quarter the Gamecocks dominated the Cardinals as Louisville shot under 20%.
Then the Cardinals fought back, closing the rebounding gap to just one while putting up five field goals to South Carolina’s eight.
Starting lineup for Louisville vs. South Carolina
We’re just minutes away from tip off where No. 1 South Carolina and No. 1 Louisville get the Final Four action started.
Here are the two teams' starting lineups:
South Carolina Gamecocks:
Hailey Van Lith
In 30 minutes ... it's SHOWTIME!#WFinalFour pic.twitter.com/KZCwpOBMtb— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) April 1, 2022
Three things to watch in Louisville vs. South Carolina tonight
The clock is ticking with just a few hours left until No. 1 South Carolina and No. 1 Louisville tip off the Final Four. Here’s what we expect from the matchup:
Defense, defense and a little more defense
Both South Carolina and Louisville find their bread and butter on the defensive end throttling opponents.
The Gamecocks rank third in the nation defensively holding teams to 50.5 points per game while Louisville's opponents average 55.2. The Cardinals has upped the pressure in the last two rounds to hold off comebacks.
Cardinals defensive stalwart Olivia Cochran will be vital in trying to stop Gamecocks star Aliyah Boston who is the Gamecocks' first offensive option, on top of being named Naismith Defensive Player of the Year.
Stars will collide on the court and bench
Boston may be the biggest star after racking up multiple player of the year awards, but she certainly isn't the only one.
Louisville stars Hailey Vin Lith, who scored at least 20 points through the tournament, and foward Emily Engstler headline the Cardinals.
On the bench, coach Dawn Staley and Jeff Walz have been two consistent coaches since they were both hired in the early late 2000's. The two are among 10 other coaches to make at least four Final Fours.
Both have something to prove
The 2021 Final Four 66-65 matchup between South Carolina and Stanford ended in tears for the Gamecocks, and not the good kind.
Staley's squad is looking for redemption after falling so short in last year's semifinals.
Meanwhile, Louisville believe they've been labeled the underdogs, despite this being a No. 1 vs. No. 1 matchup.
Final Four preview before the show begins tomorrow! 🏀#WFinalFour x @autumnjohnsontv pic.twitter.com/ny0qGZFwM6— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) April 1, 2022
What you should be reading ahead of tonight's Final Four
Tonight's the night and we're just 7 hours from Louisville-South Carolina. Two No. 1 seeds get the show started in Minneapolis with the first of two Final Four games today.
Here's some stories to get you started on tonight's top-tier matchup:
- 4 facts to know before the Final Four — NCAA.com
- Here's how many brackets correctly picked the Final Four — NCAA.com
- Looking back at South Carolina’s last three trips to the NCAA Final Four — The State
- 'We all clicked on the court': Engstler's fresh start helps lead Louisville to Final Four — ESPN
South Carolina-Louisville kicks off Final Four Friday
We’re less than 24 hours out from a heavyweight matchup between No. 1 South Carolina and No. 1 Louisville at 7 ET on ESPN.
Here’s what you need to know:
The two teams have only met once after leaving the Metro Conference almost 30 years ago. The Gamecocks and Cardinals last played in 2016, when South Carolina dominated 83-59. This will be the first time both programs meet in the NCAA tournament.
South Carolina has made four Final Fours in seven seasons while Louisville returns to its first in four years.
The Gamecocks have mostly cruised to the national semifinals, handling teams by double digits in all but one game. They started off the tournament with their largest victory, 58, over No. 16 Howard, then another painless victory over No. 8 Miami (FL). In the Sweet 16, they met their toughest opponent yet in No. 5 North Carolina, but outlasted the Tar Heels, eventually steamrolling No. 10 Creighton’s Cinderella story in the Elite Eight.
👀 how @GamecockWBB got here !#WFinalFour pic.twitter.com/9FeQibZNnw— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) March 31, 2022
The Cardinals had a similar path routing No. 16 UAlbany to outdueling No. 9 Gonzaga in the first two rounds. In the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, the Cardinals staved off comebacks from an injured No. 4 Tennessee and No. 3 Michigan after building up double-digit leads — though Jeff Walz’s squad pulled it together by hitting the gas pedal in the final quarter of both games.
👀 how @UofLWBB got here !#WFinalFour pic.twitter.com/SSRMS75BAf— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) April 1, 2022
South Carolina racks up 7 awards
Top-seeds South Carolina and Louisville square up tomorrow, but leading up to the Final Four, the Gamecocks cleaned up in the end of season awards.
Dawn Staley won the Naismith, Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and U.S. Basketball Writers Association Coach of the Year awards.
The Naismith Coach of the Year, @dawnstaley , chats with @autumnjohnsontv about winning the award!#WFinalFour x @GamecockWBB pic.twitter.com/phx2o1Lk3l— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessWBB) March 31, 2022
Meanwhile, Gamecocks star Aliyah Boston took home the Naismith, Associated Press and Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Player of the Year honors as well as the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year.
How to watch the women's Final Four
You can watch No. 1 South Carolina and No. 1 Louisville play at 7 p.m. ET Friday on ESPN.
No. 2 UConn and No. 1 Stanford play the second game at approximately 9:30 p.m. on ESPN.
Both games will stream live on ESPN.