Dawn Staley has been in this position for three straight seasons.
It’s still a sense of apprehension.
“This is March,” Staley said after Sunday’s 73-58 NCAA tournament-opening victory against Cal State Northridge. “Welcome to the madness. I’m happy we were able to get our feet wet, and, hopefully, we will be able to perform a little better on Tuesday.”
South Carolina has won five straight first-round games in the NCAA tournament and is looking to advance to its fifth Sweet 16 on Tuesday, when the Gamecocks take on Oregon State.
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USC has advanced to the Sweet 16 four times in 10 tries, and a win would make it two Sweet 16 appearances in three seasons.
Sunday’s win was the program’s 700th. USC’s first win came on Dec. 2, 1974.
Oregon State blocked 10 shots in a 55-36 win over Middle Tennessee on Sunday, tying a school record for the most blocks in a postseason game. The Beavers, featuring four players at 6-foot-3 and starting 6-6 center Ruth Hamblin, have blocked 214 shots this season (6.29 per game).
The Gamecocks had four shots blocked in their win, all recorded by Cal State Northridge center Camille Mahlknecht (6-2).
MTSU left Seattle with its sixth straight first-round NCAA tournament loss, never getting a chance to see how it would match up against another SEC team. The Blue Raiders played four SEC teams early in the season and felt it prepared them for the rest of the year.
“The SEC is a really difficult conference,” Blue Raiders senior forward Ebony Rowe said. “All the girls are big and strong. I think our coach did that on purpose, to help us prepare for the NCAA tournament.”
MTSU lost to Tennessee in its season-opener, then lost back-to-back games at Arkansas and against Kentucky to become 1-3. The Raiders promptly won 28 of their next 29 games, beating Mississippi State along the way.
“Probably keeping them away from the media, because you guys keep bringing it up.” – Staley, answering what she’s doing to keep her players forgetful of last year’s second-round NCAA tournament exit.