No. 17 South Carolina 74, S. Dakota St. 52

South Dakota State coach Aaron Johnston figures the one way the

Jackrabbits could have won their NCAA tournament opener on Saturday

was to get a better seed.

The 13th-seeded Jackrabbits were no match in a 74-52 loss to No.

4 seed South Carolina, which got 15 points and 11 rebounds from

Ashley Bruner.

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 Jackrabbits (25-8), the

Summit League regular season and tournament champs.

The Jackrabbits hung tough for about 10 minutes, then the

Gamecocks broke down their man-to-man defense and started getting

easy looks at the basket and making plenty of trips to the foul

line.

The Jackrabbits have been one-and-done in each of their past

four trips to the NCAA tournament, seeded 14th, 15th, 13th and

13th.

Their only NCAA win came in 2009, when they were a No. 7 seed

and beat TCU before losing to Baylor.

”Well, it’s a challenge,” Johnston said. ”I remember our

first year we were a 7 seed and that’s a much better position to be

in versus who you’re going to be playing against. If we stay in

that 13-14-15 seed, we’re going to be playing people who are top-20

teams.

”We’ve played the kind of non-conference schedule that it takes

to get a little better seed, and I thought we played pretty well

this year. We just didn’t have a couple of (more) wins that we

needed.”

So, while the Gamecocks advanced to the second round Monday, the

Jackrabbits prepared to go home and work toward that elusive better

seed.

”The difference between being a 13 seed and a 10 seed is

probably two wins for us,” Johnston said. ”We’re not talking

about having to go back and reshape everything we do.”

The Gamecocks are seeking their second straight trip to the

round of 16 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.

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 were just really getting to the basket and making free

throws and, you’re fouling them, so they were making free throws,

too,” Jackrabbits center Katie Lingle said.

The Gamecocks began pulling away when Tiffany Mitchell and Asia

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

double digits.

”We just didn’t recover,” Johnston said.

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