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Barring Monday shocker, next for Iowa women’s basketball team is mighty South Carolina
Unbeaten, shot-blocking, rebounding steamrollers likely to face Hawkeyes Friday in Final Four
The celebration will go on for a while. It should. Iowa is in the women’s basketball Final Four.
For the first time in 30 years, a Division I basketball team from Iowa is in a Final Four. As the songwriter sang:
It's been a long time coming, my dear
It's been a long time coming, but now it's here
Yea, now it's here
When the Hawkeyes eventually start to look ahead to what awaits them in Dallas Friday night, they’ll realize they aren’t in Iowa anymore. Or Seattle. Or the Big Ten.
The foe is highly likely to be a team that will carry a 42-game winning streak to Big D, and that’s No. 1-ranked, defending-champion South Carolina.
The Gamecocks must defeat Maryland Monday night in Greenville, S.C., (ESPN, 6 p.m. CT) to return to the Final Four. They’re 14.5-point favorites. It would be a stunner if they don’t take out the Terrapins, a lightning bolt that wouldn’t trouble Iowa a bit.
The Hawkeyes won two of their three meetings with Maryland this season. No one beat South Carolina once.
In fact, the Gamecocks have outscored their foes by 30 points per game. That’s No. 1 in the nation in scoring margin as you would expect. They are also No. 1 in scoring defense (50.4 points per game), rebounding margin (+20.2), field goal percentage defense (. 312), blocked shots per game (9.1), and bench points per game.
South Carolina also is second in offensive rebounds, sixth in scoring offense, and 12th in 3-point percentage defense (. 258).
Aliyah Boston, the 6-foot-5 reigning National Player of the Year, has 70 blocked shots. Kamilla Cardoso, a 6-7 junior, has 67 blocks. No Hawkeye has more than 20 blocks.
The Gamecocks are deep as well as long and talented. They have a 10-player rotation and have used just three players for more than 18.5 minutes per game.
LSU, which is on the other side of the Final Four bracket from Iowa, is 32-2. One of its losses was 88-64 at South Carolina on Feb. 12. Six different Gamecocks combined to block 10 shots in that game. LSU was out-rebounded, 43-25.
Hey, better to be playing a seemingly immovable object in the Final Four than not being there. As the great running back Billy Clyde Puckett once remarked about trying to win the Super Bowl, nobody ever said this wasn’t gonna be semi-tough.
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