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March 25, 2013

WBB: Sweet 16 berth on line as USC, Kansas clash

Game 1
-- (4) No. 17 South Carolina 74, (13) South Dakota State 52
Game 2 -- (12) Kansas 67, (5) No. 19 Colorado 52
Game 3
-- (4) No. 17 South Carolina vs. (12) Kansas, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

(12) KANSAS JAYHAWKS (19-13)

What: Second round, NCAA tournament
When: 9:30 p.m. today
Where: Coors Events Center, Boulder, Colo.
Tickets: Available at the box office
Kansas' probable starters: G Angel Goodrich 5-4 Sr. (14.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg); G Monica Engelman 5-11 Sr. (9.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg); G Markisha Hawkins 5-9 Jr. (4.0 ppg, 1.2 rpg); F Chelsea Gardner 6-3 S0. (8.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg); F Carolyn Davis 6-3 Sr. (15.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg)
South Carolina's probable starters: G Ieasia Walker 5-8 Sr. (9.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg); G Sancheon White 5-10 Sr. (4.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg); G Tiffany Mitchell 5-9 Fr. (9.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg); F Aleighsa Welch 6-0 So. (11.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg); F Ashley Bruner 6-0 Sr. (10.1 ppg, 8.0 rpg)
Notes: South Carolina attempts to make its second straight Sweet 16. … Kansas is also trying for a second straight Sweet 16 appearance. … The first meeting between the two teams. … A win keeps coach Dawn Staley's streak of improving her SEC and overall win totals in every year at USC intact. … Kansas has won three straight games in the Coors Events Center dating to 2010. … The Gamecocks are averaging 7.3 points more in two SEC tournament and one NCAA tournament games than they did in the regular season. … Bruner has had a double-double in all three postseason games. … USC center Elem Ibiam is averaging 11.3 points and 8.0 rebounds in the postseason.
Next game: The winner plays the winner of the Iowa City regional in the Sweet 16 in Norfolk, Va., next weekend. A day and time will be announced later.

VIDEO: Kansas preview

100 0707 from GamecockCentral.com on Vimeo.

BOULDER, Colo. - South Carolina didn't expect to see Kansas waiting for it in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The 12th-seed Jayhawks had some pundits muttering that they shouldn't even be in the tournament, after losing seven of 11 games beforehand and limping into the postseason with an 18-13 record.

But they're here, after pummeling No. 19 Colorado in the first round, and they, just like 32 other teams in the country, have a chance to keep playing. The No. 17 Gamecocks don't have anything guaranteed, and they know it.

"I think Kansas is showing why they're in the tournament," coach Dawn Staley said on Sunday. "If we were just playing for seeds, then pack our bags, we're heading to the Sweet 16. I think Kansas has a lot to say about that."

The Jayhawks do indeed. They're here, too, and the five-seed Buffaloes (on their home court, no less), didn't offer much of a challenge. They won't be scared of the four-seed Gamecocks (25-7), who like Kansas, are attempting to make their second straight Sweet 16 appearance.

It's up to USC to weather a confident Kansas team, another cold environment (while the fans can't cheer for the home-team Buffaloes anymore, they may decide to cheer for the underdogs, and the Kansas fans were much more present than USC fans on Saturday) and the expectations to get back where they want to be. The theme all season has been "Final Four," and USC hasn't been shy about expressing it, so the Sweet 16 is a natural step.

Just got to take it.

"It's the NCAA tournament," forward Aleighsa Welch said. "Everyone who comes in has that will to win. You can't really focus on seeds because then you'll be focusing on whether it should be Kansas or Colorado. Kansas came out, played hot and played a terrific game."

The Jayhawks stumbled in crunch time of the regular season, losing five of eight games in February and completing a four-game losing streak by dropping their first game in March. Kansas rebounded by winning two straight (both vs. Texas Christian), but lost to Iowa State in the Big 12 tournament.

Nevertheless, the Jayhawks got into the tournament and present a formidable hurdle. Seniors Angel Goodrich and Carolyn Davis present a 1-2 high-low punch that can give teams fits, and they showed Colorado why with a combined 28 points in a 67-52 win on Saturday.

USC's game plan against South Dakota State was to work inside-out (as it has all season), and Elem Ibiam responded with another fine game while Welch and Ashley Bruner did their usual work. The Gamecocks have played several high-flying offenses this season and almost always shut them down - their defense is keyed to do that, even if out-classed in terms of height.

Welch and Bruner will be asked to guard Davis, and Ieasia Walker will be asked to shut down Goodrich. Everybody doing their part, as usual.

"I am partial to point guards," Staley joked. "Goodrich makes their team go. She is their engine that creates opportunities for her and her teammates to score."

Davis will also be tough to handle on the block, but USC's defense hasn't backed down from height all year. "She presents the same challenges as everyone else we've played with that height," Welch said. "It's nothing we aren't used to."

The Gamecocks have been here before, but so has Kansas. USC just has to play its game, the one that got it to 25 wins for the second straight year.

"I think you have to look at our leadership," Staley said. "For us, they have been here and understand what is at stake. They have experience with it and are playing their best basketball right now."

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