By:Marvin Chambers:|4.0 Sports Media
Albany (NY) — A’ja Wilson scored 20 points, Alex Jennings had 20 and South Carolina built a huge lead before knocking off Buffalo 79-63 on Saturday at the Times Union Center in front of a crowd of 10,310.
Buffalo guard who is from Rochester, NY Cierra Dillard scored 29 points, 6 assists and three rebounds for the eleven-seeded Bulls (29-6), who advanced to the Sweet Sixteen by knocking off # 3 seed Florida State on Monday. The Bulls became the just the 12th 11 seed all-time to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. No 11 seed has ever won their second game by a bigger margin than the Bulls did against FSU with their 21-point win.
The Bulls couldn’t get any open looks to fall in the second half, Stephanie Reid and Cassie Oursler finished the game with 8 points a piece for Buffalo. Autumn Jones came off the bench and chipped in 8 points as well but with 1:55 minutes remaining the Bulls trailed by 12 and they didn’t have a solution for A’ja Wilson and Alexis Jennings.
The first quarter has been South Carolina’s best frame this season as they have averaged 20.4 points, while holding opponents to just 13.1 points. They have only been outscored five times in the first quarter and are 3-2 in games being outscored in the first quarter.
The Bulls forced South Carolina turnovers 15 steals and turned those into 26 points. Stephanie Reid finished five assists and moved into seventh-place-all time in career assists in Mid-American Conference (MAC) history with 679.
The Gamecocks shot 52.4% (11-21) from the floor and 33% beyond the arc for the half. A’ja Wilson and Alexis Jennings started to make their presence known on the blocks in that half. Jennings had 12 points while Wilson chipped in 10 points. Even with the Bulls shooting a dismal 32.4% they were only down by nine going into the break 40-31.
“I’m so thrilled to go on this journey with these young ladies. What fight, what character. They were down and they just kept coming and believing and leaving it out there. Just really over the moon when it comes to these young ladies. You know, we certainly feel the pain of losing. You can see in it our eyes. But what’s going ti be remembered is the journey to this point, the sisterhood, the Fox Hole, the bus breaking down, taking Ubers to the game, and we found a way.” Buffalo head coach Felisga Lehette-Jack said.
South Carolina will play UConn monday night a 7 p.m start time. The Gamecocks have played in two of the last three Final Fours.
A’ja Wilson broke her own single-season block record of 103. The record now stands at 105. Also Wilson now has 30 double-digit scoring games in her 32 games played this season, including 24 double-doubles.
The Bulls Cierra Dillard put on her show for the crowd with her stellar performance. Dillard brought the house down with her laser bounce pass to teammate Stephanie Reid for a bucket in the second half. We would be talking about a different game if Buffalo would of made some of their open shots in the second half of the contest.
“We had a great run this year. I’m so proud of my teammates and I’m just sad that I couldn’t get the win for our seniors. But with the year we had now everybody is talking about Buffalo, now Buffalo is in their mouth and in the conversation. We have accomplished so much this year and there is more to come for Buffalo basketball.” Buffalo guard Cierra Dillard said.
South Carolina has held opponents under 70 points, 13 games in a row. Tyasha Harris had nine assists, her seventh game with nine or more assists.
“We’re excited to be moving on on to the elite 8. We played an incredible Buffalo team that took a long time to get control of the game and that was due to the way they played us. I’m extremely proud of our players staying resilient, not playing their best basketball but they did enough to move on to the Elite 8.” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said.