While McDonald, the Pac-12 player of the year, has led the way offensively, forward Trinity Baptiste has given the team some much-needed size and even contributed a double-double against Indiana. The Wildcats play a relentless, high-energy defense that forces a lot of turnovers, especially against teams that underestimate them.
“We just need this confidence and momentum going into UConn,” McDonald said. “UConn, we already know what they’re about: powerhouse, well-coached, skillful players. But hey, I got my chances with my teammates. Ride or die, I’m going to war with them.”
South Carolina can cement its status as a powerhouse.
When South Carolina won its first national title in 2017, the Gamecocks had the best player in the country in A’ja Wilson, the 2020 W.N.B.A. most valuable player. Coach Dawn Staley’s team looked ready to claim another trophy last season, going 32-1 behind a group of young talent that — while it didn’t yet have statues like Wilson in Columbia, S.C. — looked good enough to deserve one.
Then the pandemic hit, and the Gamecocks’ momentum was (temporarily) halted. This season, South Carolina lost four times — all to ranked teams, and while still showing some of the immaturity of its young core.
“When we got knocked down four times this season, they got back up stronger, and I like that,” Staley said after Tuesday’s win against Texas sent her team back to the Final Four. “They haven’t even scratched the surface of how good they can be. We’re happy, but we’re not done yet.”
The 6-foot-5 center Aliyah Boston typically fuels both the defense and the offense, scoring efficiently under the basket, but increasingly South Carolina’s quick guards have stepped into starring roles. The junior Destanni Henderson and the sophomore Zia Cooke are scoring threats anywhere on the floor, and the Gamecocks are playing their best basketball of the season.
Stanford has the grit to play from behind.
Stanford breezed through its first three tournament games, barely breaking a sweat as they hit 43 3-pointers. Then they met up with a scrappy Louisville team on Tuesday that spent more than half of the game in the lead; at one point in the third quarter, Louisville led by 14 points.