STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) — Kaela Davis scored 23 points and A’ja Wilson added 16 and top-seeded South Carolina held off No. 3 seed Florida State 71-64 in a furious finish Monday night to win the Stockton Regional.
Davis scored immediately off the tip and again on a timely, brilliant left-handed drive with 1:42 to go.
Allisha Gray drove her way to 11 points for South Carolina (31-4) — and Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks are back in the Final Four for the first time since 2015 still chasing the program’s first NCAA championship.
Leticia Romero cut the South Carolina lead to five, 65-60, on a driving jumper with 3:51 left. Then Brittany Brown’s steal and layup at 3:25 made it 65-62, but the Seminoles wouldn’t get closer.
South Carolina has both basketball teams in the Final Four. The men’s program reached its first Final Four with a stunning upset of Florida on Sunday that sent the women screaming in delight at Stockton Arena all the way across the country from the victory at Madison Square Garden.
After the buzzer sounded, the Gamecocks hustled together for a team hug, then danced at midcourt wearing T-shirts and hats.
Imani Wright’s basket with 7:12 to play capped a 6-0 burst and pulled Florida State within 60-53, then Gray answered. Romero knocked down a 3 moments later and it was a six-point game.
Tyasha Harris added 16 points for South Carolina, which made things uncomfortable all game for Florida State’s Spanish star, Romero. She was limited to 6-for-23 shooting for 16 points, six assists and six rebounds as Florida State fell short once more of the program’s first Final Four.
Davis, daughter of former NBA player Antonio Davis, delivered all day on both ends. She shot 10 for 15 and is headed to her Final Four debut on Friday against Stanford. She transferred from Georgia Tech for the chance to do something special.
Two power programs from the South that scrimmaged together the past two preseasons faced off way out West in Northern California, a rematch of South Carolina’s six-point Elite Eight win against the Seminoles two years ago in Greensboro.
This one was plenty entertaining, too — from big plays to a nail-biting final few minutes.
After Wright’s jumper at the 4:23 mark made it 30-27, South Carolina closed the half with a 10-2 spurt.
Gray made a pair of pretty drives to key a late second-quarter run during which South Carolina hit five of seven shots as the Seminoles took a 40-29 lead into halftime.
ATTENDANCE: The game with no West Coast team drew 3,134.
Florida State: Florida State forced 23 turnovers two days earlier and 18 more Monday. … It again played strong perimeter defense with the Gamecocks going 3 for 10 on 3s after the Seminoles held Oregon State to 2 for 17 on 3-pointers and Beavers leading scorer Sydney Wiese 0 for 10. … No women’s team from Florida has reached the Final Four. … Slaughter, whose career-high nine steals Saturday were an NCAA women’s regional round record, had 10 rebounds.
South Carolina: Wilson got her fourth foul with 5:16 left and stayed in the game. … South Carolina made 16 of 20 free throws after converting 17 of 18 from the line in a 100-58 rout of 12 seed Quinnipiac on Saturday.
South Carolina will face Lexington Regional winner Stanford (32-5) on Friday at the Final Four in Dallas. Staley starred for Hall of Fame Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer on the gold-medal winning 1996 Atlanta Olympic team.