It’s Final Four time, folks.
No. 1 seeds South Carolina and Stanford battle at 6 p.m. Friday (ESPN) in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament at the Alamodome in San Antonio. The winner advances to Sunday’s national championship game.
The State’s Greg Hadley has been in San Antonio for the duration of the tournament. His coverage of the Final Four continues below.
What’s the South Carolina vs Stanford score right now?
FINAL: Stanford 66, South Carolina 65
In a stunning, crushing finish, the Gamecocks had a chance to win after stealing the inbounds pass with less than 15 seconds to go. Sophomore guard Brea Beal missed her driving attempt, though, and Aliyah Boston’s follow-up barely rimmed out to end South Carolina’s season.
THIRD QUARTER: Stanford 52, South Carolina 49
While South Carolina’s Zia Cooke exploded for 11 points in the third quarter and the Gamecocks rallied with four 3-pointers in the quarter, Stanford managed to cling to its lead, as star Haley Jones had nine points of her own. Of note, Aliyah Boston picked up her third foul of the game late in the quarter.
Cooke heating up
South Carolina is refusing to let Stanford get away, using a 7-0 run to significantly close the gap early in the third quarter. Sophomore guard Zia Cooke in particular has been magnificent, hitting two 3-pointers to account for half of USC’s 12 points before the media timeout. Sophomore guard Brea Beal hit a 3-pointer as well, but the Cardinal continued to get second-chance looks and led 41-37 with 4:30 left in the third quarter.
HALFTIME: Stanford 31, South Carolina 25
The Gamecocks trail by six at halftime, actually less than the nine-point deficit they faced back in the 2017 Final Four against Stanford. Sophomore guard Zia Cooke has 12 points and sophomore forward Aliyah Boston has seven points, nine rebounds and four blocks, but the rest of USC’s squad has yet to make a field goal, and Stanford is 4 of 5 on 3-pointers.
When Cooke hit a 3-pointer with 2:49 left in the second quarter, she narrowed the gap to 26-25, but the Gamecocks didn’t score again for the rest of the quarter, missing their next six shots.
Cold shooting sets in
South Carolina went more than nine minutes between made field goals from the first and into the second quarter. That allowed Stanford to seize the lead with an extremely slow-moving run. Sophomore guard Zia Cooke finally snapped a stretch of 11 misses in a row with a 3-pointer, but the Cardinal still led 24-20.
However, three Cardinal starters reached two fouls by the second media timeout, potentially signaling trouble for the team’s depth.
FIRST QUARTER: South Carolina 15, Stanford 15
After storming out to a nearly flawless start, South Carolina took a 15-6 lead into the first media timeout. Things were clicking — Aliyah Boston, Zia Cooke and Destanni Henderson were producing on offense, and Stanford was flustered by the Gamecocks defensive pressure. After the timeout, though, things flipped. The Gamecocks didn’t score again for the rest of the quarter, while the Cardinal mounted a 9-0 run, boosted by a pair of 3-pointers, to tie things just before the buzzer.
Of consequence, however, was some early foul trouble for Stanford’s Haley Jones. One of the team’s star players, she had nine points in the first quarter and carried the team in the early going, but she picked up her second foul and had to go to the bench.
South Carolina storms to early lead
The Gamecocks came out strong to start, racing to a 15-6 lead early as they pestered Stanford on defense and got in their space, and relied on their stars on offense — Zia Cooke, Destanni Henderson and Aliyah Boston all had at least four points before the first media timeout. The Cardinal, meanwhile, only got points from Haley Jones and turned the ball over four times.
Both South Carolina and Stanford have stuck with the same starting lineups all tournament long, and that didn’t change Friday. For the Gamecocks, that’s been junior guard Destanni Henderson, sophomore guard Zia Cooke, sophomore guard Brea Beal, junior forward Victaria Saxton and sophomore forward Aliyah Boston.
For Stanford, it’s been fifth-year senior guard Anna Wilson, senior guard Kiana Williams, sophomore guard Haley Jones, junior guard Lexie Hull and freshman forward Cameron Brink. Brink did most of the second half in the Elite Eight after tweaking her leg, but she was back in the lineup Friday.
Stanford is the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament and the favorite tonight. FiveThirtyEight’s March Madness predictions gives the Cardinal a 66% win probability, while Her Hoop Stats, an advanced analytics website, has it closer, pegging Stanford’s chances at 52%.
On ESPN.com, seven writers were surveyed for their picks, and all seven chose Stanford to win. Over at CBS Sports, analyst Matt Ward also went with the Cardinal. Yahoo Sports’ Benjamin Simon, however, picked the Gamecocks to pull the upset.
Final Four: Gamecocks vs Stanford, what time and channel
What: NCAA tournament Final Four
Who: No. 1 seed South Carolina vs. No. 1 seed Stanford
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Where: Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas