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How the women’s 2024 NCAA championship game matchup was set

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By jeenmediaa


CLEVELAND — Undefeated South Carolina looked every bit the No. 1 overall seed in its dominant 19-point victory over NC State on Friday night in the women’s Final Four. Though NC State was able to hang with South Carolina for two quarters, the Gamecocks used a third-quarter explosion to beat the Wolfpack and advance to the national championship game. With the win, South Carolina moved beyond the point where its season ended a year ago.

The Gamecocks will face the winner of the second Final Four game, which pits No. 1 seed Iowa and Caitlin Clark against No. 3 seed UConn and Paige Bueckers (live on ESPN).

ESPN’s Katie Barnes, Charlie Creme and Jake Trotter break down how each women’s Final Four game was won and look ahead to Sunday’s championship matchup (3 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN App).

How South Carolina beat NC State 78-59

What was key in South Carolina’s win?

Two words: Kamilla Cardoso. South Carolina has been balanced all year, but Friday night the Gamecocks rode Cardoso to the championship game. Cardoso led all scorers with 22 points and chipped in 11 boards. It marked just the third time she has scored 20 points while at South Carolina. In addition to the individual scoring effort from Cardoso, the Gamecocks exploded for a 29-6 run over the third quarter to put NC State away. — Katie Barnes

What surprised you the most about this game?

The margin was somewhat surprising, but the biggest takeaway was just how clinical South Carolina was in the third quarter. It was a lesson in shot selection (60% shooting), defensive execution (NC State made one field goal and had four turnovers) and rebounding (15-5 advantage). Giving up second-half leads has been the biggest issue for the Gamecocks late in the season. Tennessee, Indiana and Oregon State all made runs to make games tense late. The Gamecocks’ third quarter was so good, so dominant that there was no way NC State could come back. The thought around the Gamecocks has been that if they play their A-game, they won’t lose. That 10 minutes was South Carolina’s A-plus game. — Charlie Creme

Who was the most outstanding player?

Twice, Cardoso had to leave the floor for the locker room. But when she was on the court, South Carolina’s All-American center dominated. In the first quarter, Cardoso had to exit because of an issue with her left eye. She returned from the locker room for the second quarter to score 12 straight points, as the Gamecocks asserted control following a shaky first quarter. With 1:39 left in the first half, Cardoso had to be subbed out again after injuring her right leg contesting a shot at the rim. Despite limping off to the locker room, she started the third quarter. Cardoso’s back-to-back layups early in the half helped ignite a 29-6 South Carolina run that put the game away. — Jake Trotter

What will be the legacy of NC State?

This was the first Final Four appearance for NC State since 1998. The Wolfpack were just the seventh team to make a Final Four after being unranked in the AP preseason poll and the first since Washington in 2016. Though the outcome didn’t go NC State’s way, the Wolfpack got over the hump to the women’s basketball final weekend after losing in the Elite Eight and first round in the prior two years. — Barnes



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