South Carolina defense smothers Louisville in Final 4 win | Radio WGN 720

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Standing near the top of the key, Louisville point guard Hailey Van Lith spotted an opening in the South Carolina defense.

The Cardinals were down nine at the start of the fourth quarter Friday night, and with almost everything else failing, Louisville’s leading scorer and spark plug tried to shake things up.

Van Lith rolled to his left, hoping to make a clear path to the basket. But in an instant, Brea Beal was on the scene. Using her speed and a six-inch height advantage, the Gamecocks guard met Van Lith at the free throw line and harassed her to the hoop.

Van Lith threw an off-balance runner that leaped harmlessly off the backboard and into the arms of South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston, who started a fast break that Beal finished at the other end with a layup.

That trade characterized most of the night for the Cardinals, who lost 72-59 in the NCAA Women’s Semifinal. The Gamecocks’ defense, one of the best in the nation, proved too strong for Louisville, which has averaged 72.2 points per game this season but faltered under pressure from South Carolina and matchups. difficult.

Van Lith, who averaged 21.5 points through the first four games of the NCAA Tournament, finished with just nine points on 4-for-11 shooting. A late 3-pointer was the only of eight attempts the Cardinals have make beyond the arc. And they didn’t have an answer for Boston, the Associated Press Player of the Year, who finished with 23 points and 18 rebounds.

Louisville isn’t the only team to cave under South Carolina’s overwhelming defense. The Gamecocks finished the season ranked third in the nation defensively, allowing just 50.5 points per game. They stepped up their efforts in the NCAA Tournament, stifling their opponents at record pace.

In their 79-21 win over Howard in the first round, the Gamecocks let them get just four points in the first half – an NCAA Tournament first/second round record, as was the 21 total points allowed in a match.

South Carolina kept the pressure on in the second round, beating Miami 49-33. The combined 54 points was the fewest a team had ever allowed in the first two rounds of the tournament, breaking the previous record of 17.

More AP coverage of March Madness: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

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