South Carolina vs. NC State score: Gamecocks roll in Final Four matchup, return to national championship game

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South Carolina is heading back to the national championship game after an impressive 78-59 win over NC State in the Final Four on Friday night. With the win, the Gamecocks improved to 37-0 on the season and kept the dream of an undefeated season alive. They will play the winner of Iowa and UConn on Sunday in Cleveland.

While the final score suggests this game wasn’t very competitive, it was tied at the end of the first quarter and the Gamecocks led by just one at halftime. It wasn’t until the third quarter when things got out of hand. The Gamecocks outscored the Wolfpack 29-6 in that frame thanks to some terrific play on both ends of the floor, and essentially ended the contest right then and there.

Kamilla Cardoso led the way for the Gamecocks with 22 points and 11 rebounds on 10-of-12 from the field, and was able to rest the entire fourth quarter after tweaking her right leg in the first half. Raven Johnson added 13 points and five assists, Te-Hina Paopao had 10 points and six assists and Ashlyn Watkins set a Final Four record for rebounds off the bench with 20. As a team, the Gamecocks shot 50% from the field.

Here are some of the key takeaways as South Carolina looks to make history on Sunday.

A game-changing third quarter

There was nothing to separate the two teams in the first half, but that changed quickly after the break. The Gamecocks scored on their first two possessions and needed just two minutes to turn a one-point lead into a 10-point lead. They never looked back, and ended up winning the frame 29-6. 

Offensively, they had such ease scoring in the paint that the Wolfpack eventually switched to a zone. The Gamecocks responded by showing why they were third in the country in 3-point shooting this season at 39.4% by knocking down five triples in the frame. All told, they shot 12-of-20 from the field in the third, and turned it over just twice. 

On the other side, they ratcheted up the defensive pressure and made the Wolfpack look clueless. The Wolfpack shot 1-of-11 from the field in the third and didn’t make a single shot over the last 7:46. That was the 35th time this season that the Gamecocks have held an opponent to single digits in a quarter. 

Cardoso dominates, suffers apparent leg injury

Kamilla Cardoso declared for the 2024 WNBA Draft earlier this week, and is almost certainly going to be a lottery pick later this month. She showed why on Friday against NC State with a dominant performance in the paint on both sides of the ball. The Wolfpack simply had no answer for a player of Cardoso’s size and skill. 

She scored 22 points on 10-of-12 from the field, pulled down 11 rebounds and blocked two shots, all in just 22 minutes. While the score was the primary reason she sat out the entire fourth quarter and didn’t play that much overall, she also suffered an apparent leg injury in the first half. 

Late in the second quarter, Cardoso took an awkward fall and came up limping. After hobbling around for a few possessions, she checked out of the game at the next dead ball and went straight back to the locker room. She was back on the floor for the start of the second half sporting a big sleeve on her right leg, but seemed to be moving fairly well. 

It seems she’ll be ready to go on Sunday, but that will be a storyline to monitor over the next two days. 

Gamecocks chasing history

With their win on Friday, the Gamecocks improved to a stunning 37-0 and set a new school record for wins in a season, surpassing last season’s mark of 36. More importantly, they advanced to the national championship game and will have a chance to win a third title. 

If they can win on Sunday, they will join UConn (11), Tennessee (eight), Baylor (three) and Stanford (three) as the only schools with three or more national titles in women’s basketball. Furthermore, a win on Sunday would complete a perfect season, making them the first undefeated national champion since UConn in 2016 and 10th overall. 

CBS Sports was with you throughout the entire way on Friday with live updates, analysis and highlights.

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