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March 24, 2012

WBB: USC ends season in Sweet 16



PER USC

At Fresno, Calif., South Carolina's dream season woke up a few minutes short of a perfect ending.

Top-seed Stanford (34-1) ended the Gamecocks' season 76-60 on Saturday, the Cardinals' height just too much for No. 25 and fifth-seed USC to handle. Six-foot-2 forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike scored 39 points as the Cardinal overwhelmed USC inside. No other Stanford player scored more than 12 as the Cardinal clinched their fifth straight Elite Eight appearance. They will play Duke on Monday with a Final Four berth on the line.

USC (25-10) ended the year with a statement, going to the Sweet 16 for the first time in coach Dawn Staley's career and the second time in three tournament appearances. It just wasn't quite enough as five seniors - captains La'Keisha Sutton and Courtney Newton, plus Ebony Wilson, Charenee Stephens and Markeisha Grant - ended their careers.

Sutton scored 18 points and Grant scored 14 as USC ended the year actually out-rebounding a height-superior team, 38-36. Each team had 11 turnovers, but Ogwumike was just too much to handle inside.

USC set several highs this season. The Gamecocks won 25 games for the first time since 2002, won 10 SEC games for the first time since the same year and advanced to the SEC tournament semifinals for the first time ever. They gained Staley's first Sweet 16 berth and beat Vanderbilt (for the first time this year on its home court) and won at Tennessee (for the first time program history).

But after whipping Purdue a week ago to advance, USC had no answer for Stanford. The Ogwumike sisters (sister Chiney had 12 points ) swarmed the smaller Gamecocks for 50 combined points.

Stephens had four points but Wilson and Newton didn't tally a point. Freshman Aleighsa Welch had eight points and 12 rebounds.

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