PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — After running past Oregon, top-ranked South Carolina is ready to face No. 2 UConn.
Zia Cooke scored 20 points and Laeticia Amihere added 18 to help South Carolina rout No. 9 Oregon 80-63 on Sunday in the semifinals of the inaugural Battle 4 Atlantis women’s tournament.
Now, the top two teams in the nation will meet Monday for the tournament title.
“We’re excited. We chose to play in this tournament because we got an opportunity to play top teams in the country,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “That’s been our theme all season long, so why not? UConn has always been on our schedule the last couple years and still are on our schedule. It’s great for women’s basketball.”
The two teams met last season in another 1-vs-2 matchup, which UConn won in overtime.
“I love when we play good teams early so we can get tested early,” Cooke said. “I think it will be a pretty good game.”
This was the first meeting between the Gamecocks (5-0) and the Ducks (3-1) since 2002. The two teams were favored to play for the national championship in 2020 before the NCAA Tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Both are very different teams since then.
Oregon came into the game shorthanded.
Ducks forward Nyara Sabally sat out to rest her right knee, which she tweaked in the opening round win over Oklahoma. She is considered day to day, according to coach Kelly Graves. After playing 37 minutes and scoring a a career-high 30 points in the win Saturday, Sabally was given the day off.
“I don’t mess with trainers and doctors,” Graves said. “If they tell me she can go, she can go. We were blessed to get her yesterday.”
The Ducks already were missing sophomore guard Te-Hina Paopao, freshman guard Taylor Bigby and USC junior transfer Endyia Rogers because of injuries.
South Carolina was able to take advantage, jumping out to a 27-14 lead after one quarter. Oregon came within 32-23 midway through the second quarter before the Gamecocks closed the half with a 12-3 burst.
Cooke started the spurt with a layup, Amihere scored six straight points and the Gamecocks led 44-26 at the break.
South Carolina scored 11 of the first 13 points in the third quarter to put the game away.
Chanaya Pinto scored 12 points to lead Oregon.
The Gamecocks won the only two previous meetings between the schools, with the last coming in the 2002 Paradise Jam. … Aliyah Boston scored 16 points for the Gamecocks a day after having 23 in the opener. … Graves reached the 600-win mark in the opening round of the tournament.
Oregon: The Ducks are gaining valuable experience for many of their reserves in this tough three-day tournament. They’ll be better once they get healthy.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks found different ways to win in the first two games. They used a dominant interior presence to rout Buffalo and then used strong play from their guards to beat the Ducks.
Oregon committed 20 turnovers, which led to 27 points for the Gamecocks.
“We’ve got to take care of the ball better,” Graves said. “They had 27 points off those turnovers. Credit really good pressure by them.”
Oregon: Faces No. 23 South Florida in the third place game Monday.
South Carolina: Faces second-ranked UConn for the championship Monday.
More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25