South Carolina coach Dawn Staley had a message for junior guard Allisha Gray during the first half of USC’s national semifinal game against Stanford.
It is safe to say the message got across.
Gray scored 13 of her 18 points in the second half to lift the Gamecocks to a 62-53 win over the Cardinal at the American Airlines Center. USC will face the winner of UConn and Mississippi State on Sunday for the national title.
“She guided me on the sideline and told me to go to the basket and stop settling for 3-point shots. I’m going to continue to listen to her because it was obviously successful,” Gray said. “I just started to take advantage of my matchup, having a post on me. I attacked the basket.”
Stanford was determined to not let Carolina All-American A’ja Wilson beat them, throwing three and four defenders at her at a time. Wilson’s teammates had to step up, and Gray did.
“She’s one special player. … I can’t even put into words the player that she is and how special she is to this team. Her play was special,” Wilson said of Gray. “The trust that I have in my teammates is phenomenal. I trust them with everything when we’re out on the court.”
South Carolina point guard Tyasha Harris missed two key free throws against Arizona State earlier in the NCAA Tournament, and the freshman was determined to make amends.
Harris went to the free-throw line four times in the final 30 seconds and knocked down three of the four attempts as the Gamecocks held on for the victory.
“When we played Arizona State, I had to shoot two free throws, and I missed both of them. That really irked me,” she said. “After that, after every practice, I make 10 straight free throws in a row, so I had zero nerves walking up.”
DAVIS PICKED UP
Gamecocks junior Kaela Davis had been exceptional in the tournament but struggled on Friday, managing only six points on 2-for-15 shooting.
But she was fine with having an off game as her teammates picked her up to help USC advance to the national title.
“I never once doubted that this game was going to go any way than the way that it did according to how I was playing,” Davis said. “I knew that someone was going to step up and we were going to find a way to win this game.”
JERRI SUPPORTS GAMECOCKS
Jerri Spurrier attended classes at South Carolina when her husband, Steve, was the football coach. She now has a degree from USC and is out supporting the Gamecocks men’s and women’s teams in the Final Four.
Jerri was in Dallas to watch the Carolina women Friday night and will fly to Phoenix to watch the USC men face Gonzaga on Saturday night.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime wonderful thing for Carolina,” Jerri said Friday at American Airlines Center. “I’m going to go to Phoenix too, so it’s just wonderful to be able to go to both places. I’m proud of my school. I have a degree from Carolina, so it’s my school. I’m very proud.”
Jerri said as soon as both teams won, she started making plans to go. She tried to get Steve to come as well but he had other responsibilities.
“I was so excited and Steve said, ‘Jerri, you need to go.’ I said, ‘You need to go too.’ And he said, ‘No I can’t go.’ Because he has stuff he has to do,” Jerri said. “But he told me to go. I think this is the first time I’ve ever been anywhere without him.”