GREENSBORO, NC — When South Carolina had to put away the fourth quarter game against North Carolina in the Sweet 16 on Friday night, the Gamecocks turned to their best player.
And Aliyah Boston dominated in an entirely new way.
Boston scored all of South Carolina’s points in the final quarter, leading the No. 1 seeded Gamecocks to the Elite Eight with a 69-61 win. Despite North Carolina’s best efforts to limit their points in the paint, Boston was able to get back into play largely thanks to their offensive rebounds, second-chance points, and free throws.
She finished with 28 points and 22 rebounds, the first time in her career she went for more than 20 points and 20 rebounds in a game. It was only the fourth time in NCAA women’s tournament history that a player had 25 points and 20 rebounds in a game.
When asked in the postgame press conference if she claimed the ball in the fourth quarter, Boston said no, then added, “I probably should have,” before laughing.
“I was just patient, and a lot of it came from rebounds because they took expected shots,” she said. “I was able to just be there for the rebound, so I just tried to plant the boards.”
The Gamecocks will face number 10 Creighton on Sunday for a place in the Final Four.
North Carolina coach Courtney Banghart and her players decided the best game plan Friday night would be to stop the points in the paint. While South Carolina was held below its category average at a season-low 20 points, its improved shooting perimeter allowed the Gamecocks to extend their lead to double digits late in the third quarter. -time.
But the Tar Heels made another run after stopping South Carolina’s peripheral shot, closing the gap to four with 2:02 remaining. There was only one problem: preventing South Carolina from making 3s isn’t enough when Boston is down. His lay-up with 55 seconds left essentially sealed the win. Eight of his 13 points in the fourth quarter were second-chance points, an area South Carolina dominated throughout the game.
“I saw them in a movie in the making. It’s not just happening to us, is it?” North Carolina coach Courtney Banghart said. “She’s generational that way with the way her body has transformed. She’s powerful and strong. She’s got kind of a dancer’s footwork. She’s relentless.
“It’s a great one – I wish she was old enough to go pro. I’d be sitting front row celebrating her draft because I think I’ve seen enough. I had a chance, and I’ve seen enough Aliyah Boston.”
Teammate Victaria Saxton said the Gamecocks sensed something special was happening in the fourth quarter.
“I think we get together and just say to him, we need you to go out there and be dominant. When you get the ball, go score,” Saxton said. “I absolutely loved watching it, being a part of it and seeing her do what she does.”
For its part, Boston said it wanted to keep dominance on its mind throughout the quarter.
“Just smash the boards. We’ve talked about it. Making sure that once they take the expected shots, we’re just going to smash the boards. And I was able to do that.”
At this point in his career, it’s hard to find new accolades to describe what Boston does on court. The numbers can speak for themselves. She now has a double-double in 27 consecutive games and has managed a double-double in every half. She came close to making a double-double in the fourth quarter alone – she had a record-breaking nine rebounds in the fourth quarter.
“If you look at the games we’ve played, the big games we’ve played, she’s been dominant,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “She has goals in mind. Obviously the big goal is to win a national championship. That’s what she was talking about. That’s what the whole group was talking about.
“She has goals and wanted to win a national player of the year. And some people can have those goals and not achieve them and leave people guessing what it is. She goes out there and plays. He doesn’t there’s no one who has played at the highest level against the best competition in our country all season, and I think they want that.”