College Sports

How to watch, what to watch for as Gamecocks meet Florida State once again in NCAAs

South Carolina’s Te’a Cooper (2) swipes the ball from Belmont’s Maddie Cook (22) during the first half of action in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Halton Arena in Charlotte. 3/22/19
South Carolina’s Te’a Cooper (2) swipes the ball from Belmont’s Maddie Cook (22) during the first half of action in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Halton Arena in Charlotte. 3/22/19 tglantz@thestate.com

What: Second round of NCAA tournament

Who: No. 4 seed South Carolina (22-9, 13-3 SEC) vs. No. 5 seed Florida State (24-8, 10-6 ACC)

When: 2 p.m., Sunday, March 24

Where: Halton Arena, Charlotte, North Carolina

Watch: ESPN2 or WatchESPN app

Listen: 107.5 FM in Columbia

At stake: Winner advances to the Sweet 16 in Greensboro, North Carolina, next Saturday, and will play the winner of No. 1 seed Baylor’s pod.

So we meet again: For the third time in the last five years, South Carolina and Florida State are meeting in the postseason — the first two times, a trip to the Final Four was on the line. Now, a Sweet 16 berth hangs on the outcome, but the personnel from those first two meetings, both of which South Carolina won by single digits, is gone. Neither coach is thinking too much about the past.

“It doesn’t matter who the opponent is. It’s not that this provides any extra incentive. It’s an opponent that stands in front of your opportunity to go to a Sweet 16,” FSU coach Sue Semrau said.

That being said, Staley knows that for the fans, it might mean something a little extra to beat Florida State.

“The familiar name of Florida State brings a lot of memories back for our fans, so hopefully they can bring their energized selves in here and will us to another victory,” Staley said.

What to watch for: The Seminoles struggled to put away pesky No. 12 seed Bucknell on Friday, winning 70-67, but Staley credited the close game to the lengthy break FSU had since its previous game, and she said she expects another “knock-out, drag out” contest between the programs.

“As much as you try to simulate games in practices, it is difficult,” Staley said. “Now that they have gotten their feet wet, they will get up to play us as we will get up to play them.”

Specifically, South Carolina guard Bianca Jackson and Te’a Cooper cited Florida State’s offensive rebounding as an area of emphasis for the Gamecocks — the Seminoles have an offensive rebounding percentage of 37.6 percent, a top-35 mark in the country.

Leading the way, 6-foot-2 sophomore forward Kiah Gillespie averages 16.2 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, while also taking and making the most 3-pointers of any player on the team. The entire team’s versatility will likely force at least one Gamecock post player out on the perimeter, as they were against Belmont in the first round.

Staley and her players also identified junior point guard Nicki Ekhomu as a dangerous option for FSU — she averages roughly 15 points and four assists per game and has the Seminoles’ top 3-point percentage.

“She’s a three-way scorer. She can get to the rim, her mid-range is nice and her 3-point shooting is respectable,” Staley said.

Player availability: Staley said Saturday that junior forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan and senior guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore, who missed a half and the entire game, respectively, in the first round for an unspecified issue, would be fully available for the second round game.

Greg Hadley is the beat writer for South Carolina women’s basketball and baseball for GoGamecocks and The State. He also covers football and recruiting.


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