Gamecocks race past Jackrabbits in women’s tourney

Ashley Brunner had 15 points and 11 rebounds to lead No. 4 seed

South Carolina to a 74-52 victory over South Dakota State in the

opening round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday.

The Gamecocks (25-7), who won a school-record 11 Southeastern

Conference games this season, used their superior athleticism and

stout defense to make quick work of the 13th-seeded Jackrabbits

(25-8), the Summit League regular season and tournament champs.

They’ll face Colorado or Kansas on Monday in their quest to

reach the round of 16 for the second straight year under coach Dawn

Staley, who led Virginia to three Final Fours as a player.

Guard Ieasia Walker, the SEC defensive player of the year,

finished with 15 points. She also helped hold South Dakota State to

33 percent shooting in the first half as the Gamecocks raced to a

44-26 halftime lead on the strength of 61 percent shooting and 10

forced turnovers.

South Carolina led by as many as 27 in the second half as the

Jackrabbits, despite 15 points from Ashley Eide, didn’t have a run

in them.

Elem Ibian added 13 points and eight rebounds while patrolling

the paint for the Gamecocks.

Only four teams have reached the 60-point mark against South

Carolina, and the Jackrabbits looked primed to make it five when

they hung with the Gamecocks for the first 10 minutes of the game,

keeping up with South Carolina basket for basket.

The Gamecocks, who matched last season’s win total with their

25th victory, the most by the program in the SEC era (beginning

1991-92), found their shooting touch midway through the first half,

sinking seven straight shots to build a 28-21 lead.

They began pulling away when Tiffany Mitchell and Asia Dozier

sank 3-pointers from the left corner to push the lead to double

digits.

This was the Jackrabbits’ fifth straight NCAA tournament

appearance. But after beating TCU in their first NCAA game in 2009,

they’ve lost five straight times in the NCAAs.

Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/arniestapleton