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South Carolina Completes Perfect Season by Defeating Iowa and Winning The National Championship

Head Coach Dawn Staley and her South Carolina team entered the title game with an unblemished record, and after getting off to a slow start, South Carolina was able to complete the perfect season by defeating Iowa and winning the national championship.

Last year, South Carolina made it to the Final Four, where they were matched up against Iowa. Caitlin Clark scored 41 points as she led her team to a 77-73 victory and a trip to the title game. South Carolina had a stellar 2022-2023 season, but it ended in disappointment.

For the 2023-2024 season, the South Carolina Lady Gamecocks vowed this year would be a year of redemption. They dominated the competition on their schedule, finishing the regular season with a 76-68 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers. With a record of 29-0, South Carolina’s next stop was the Southeastern Conference Tournament. They defeated Texas A&M, and in a rematch against Tennessee, the Lady Gamecocks narrowly escaped with a 74-73 victory.

In the SEC tournament finals, South Carolina beat the defending national champion LSU Lady Tigers by scoring 79-72. With their undefeated record still intact, South Carolina won five straight tournament games and earned a rematch against Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes.

In the national championship game, Iowa got off to a quick start, jumping out to take a 10-0 lead. With 7:12 left to go in the opening quarter, 6 foot 7 inches senior Kamilla Cardoso secured the offensive rebound and made the bucket to get South Carolina on the board finally.

Iowa had a comfortable lead for the majority of the first quarter until freshman Tessa Johnson hit a short jumper to cut the deficit down to 2 points. Iowa’s Caitlin Clark responded by hitting a layup, and then seconds later, she hit a 3-point shot. At the end of the 1st quarter Clark had 18 points, and Iowa held a 27-20 advantage.

Led by Kamilla Cardoso, South Carolina rallied in the second quarter. With six minutes left to go in the quarter, Tessa Johnson hit a 3-point shot to tie the game at 34-34. A minute later, Cardoso hit a bucket to give the Lady Gamecocks their first lead of the contest.

After going back and forth for the next few minutes, South Carolina was up 47-46. With 12 seconds left to go in the first half, Raven Johnson stole the ball from Caitlin Clark and ended the half by scoring the transition layup.

The second half of the contest was competitive, but South Carolina was able to control the tempo of the game. Freshman Tessa Johnson consistently made timely shots and the Lady Gamecocks were able to survive a late Iowa rally and post the 87-75 victory.

With a record of 38-0, South Carolina completed the undefeated season and won the national title. It was a total team effort as Tessa Johnson had a game high 19 points. 

Kamilla Cardoso had 15 points and 17 rebounds, while Chloe Kitts had 11 points and 10 rebounds. Te-Hina Paopao also hit double digits as she had 14  points. Raven Johnson and Bree Hall shared the duties of slowing down Iowa star Caitlin Clark, as they did a solid job on the defensive side of the ball.

Dawn Staley celebrated coaching her South Carolina Lady Gamecocks to a third national title within a seven-year span. This third championship is truly special for Staley because the team had to bounce back from disappointment.

“It was emotional for me because of how it ended last year,” Staley said. “I was emotional at the beginning of the game because I didn’t want what happened last year to happen this year.”

 

Read more Sports news by Vince D’ Writer here.

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