Greensboro, N.C. – No. 1 seed Baylor handed the South Carolina Gamecocks a 93-68 drubbing en route to the Elite 8 Saturday – their fifth in six years.
Didi Richards led all five Bear starters in double figures with a career-high 25 points, while front court mates Kalani Brown and Lauren Cox each had double-doubles to mark the second time they’ve blown out South Carolina this season. Baylor has now won 26 straight games.
“You try to prepare for everything, and I read a lot of things and try to figure out what it is that we may see that we didn’t see last time,” head coach Kim Mulkey said of the rematch from earlier this year. “[Our forwards] can get up and down the floor, and our guards are going to push it.”
Baylor was simply bigger, faster, and better balanced than the competition, and had the luxury of choosing how they wanted to do damage on almost every possession. Richards attributed her big outing to the attention Baylor’s posts command.
“That’s something that’s going to happen if they to continue to double-team our posts. I’m just thankful that they are able to find me back-side,” she said.
Mulkey credited Richards for stepping up to match Brown and Cox.
“That’s happened all year. I think they just read each other, ” she said. “They watch – particularly Didi, because people don’t think she’s going to be an offensive threat, so she reads what her defender does, and then she knows where to cut and when to cut and they just have that connection. That’s from playing a lot of games together.”
Te’a Cooper was the lone Gamecock in double figures, with 17 points.
Her team never let up, but were unable to get closer than a 16-point deficit after the 8:13 mark in the second quarter. The Bears inflated their lead to as much as 30 late in the game.
Gamecock forward Alexis Jennings said Baylor had a size advantage they couldn’t overcome.
“It was pretty difficult, you know,” she said. “We’re giving up a lot of height with them, but I feel like we did the best that we could.”
South Carolina coach Dawn Staley cited her teams relative inexperience on the big stage as a factor in the loss.
“Actually being in the Sweet 16, three or four players, and the roles that some of the ones that [weren’t] a part of those [teams] … this is their first time to ask them to perform at a high level against a National Championship contender team, you know, [it] was a bit much,” Staley said. “It’s hard for them to have to be able to do that at this level.”
Mulkey said the Bears will be ready for Monday’s match up with No. 2 seed Iowa.
“These kids are focused. These kids, I mean, they have never wavered in how they approach a basketball game,” she said. “They are funny. They are talented. Elite Eight Monday.”