UofSC Women’s Basketball: 2022 NCAA Tournament Champions

UofSC Women’s Basketball currently dominates the college basketball scene.

Women’s sports, especially basketball, is known for their low viewer rates and just being made fun of because they are not as exciting to watch as men’s basketball is. But, the NCAAW March Madness Tournament this year has garnered more attention this year than in the past, with more people tuning in to watch these games and teams even selling out stadiums. This could be because during last year’s NCAAW March Madness Tournament, many collegiate players brought to light the unequal accommodations given to the women’s teams in comparison to the men’s.

But I am sure that there are still many people who do not know much about women’s basketball, or even the fact that less than two hours away from Academic Magnet High School, there is one of the best (if not the best) college women’s basketball programs at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC.

On April 4, the Gamecocks won the NCAAW March Madness Tournament, defeating the UConn Huskies for a second time this season at Target Center in Minneapolis, MN. Their success in the championship game can be accredited to standout players such as Aliyah Boston, Zia Cooke, and senior Destanni Henderson. Henderson scored a career high 26 points and guarded the number one recruit coming out of high school Paige Bueckers, who was only able to score 14 points.


Program History:

Under current head coach and recently named Coach of the Year Dawn Staley, the Gamecocks have been one of the top programs in the country, winning the NCAA Championship twice in the past six years. In addition, Coach Staley became the first black coach in men’s or women’s college basketball to win multiple national titles. The program also has an astounding six SEC tournament championships, in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2020, and 2022.

This past year, The University of South Carolina has clearly been dominant within the SEC and the entirety of the NCAA. They finished with a 35-2 season record, beating high profile teams such as number one seed Stanford and two seed UConn in the regular season. UofSC also set a new record when their defense led the NCAA tournament by only allowing an average 44.8 points per game.


Tournament Results:

The Gamecocks went into the March Madness Tournament  as the number 1 seed in the Southeast.  In the first round,  they beat 16 seed Howard 79-21. In the second round, they defeated 8 seed Miami 49-33. During the first two rounds, UofSC only allowed 54 points, showing why they are one of the top defenses in the SEC.

In a very close matchup in the Sweet Sixteen, the Gamecocks narrowly beat 5 seed UNC 69-61. But they bounced back in the Elite Eight, crushing 10 seed Creighton 80-30. In the Final Four, they were up against another 1 seed, Louisville, but they came out victorious winning 72-59, and Aliyah Boston winning Final Four most outstanding player.

Coming into the championship, UConn had taken out one seed Stanford, but nevertheless it was hardly a close game with the Gamecocks beating the Huskies 64-49.


Key Players to Watch:

Coming into next season, UofSC plans to continue to their dominance in NCAAW women’s basketball. Next year, these players will definitely play a pivotal role in hopefully earning the University of South Carolina’s third NCAAW championship.


Aliyah Boston:

Known for her fun and colorful hair, Aliyah Boston is a 6’5 forward from the Virgin Islands. Before the season, she was named the 3rd best women’s college basketball player by ESPN. She is a 3 Time All American and is currently a junior at UofSC. This season, she averaged 16.8 points, 12.2 rebounds (5th in NCAAW rankings according to ESPN), and 1.9 assists. During the UNC game in the sweet sixteen, she secured her 27th consecutive double double (SEC record) and put up 28 points and had 22 rebounds. Just before winning the championship, Boston was awarded the Player of the Year Award.


Zia Cooke:

Cooke is a 5’9 guard from Toledo, Ohio. Despite her short stature, she still averages 10.7 points per game with a 34.3 FG%. Along with her teammate Aliyah Boston, Cooke also made the Final Four All Tournament Team. As she goes into her fourth and final year at UofSC, Sean Hurd, a women’s basketball journalist, claimed “she could be a top-10 player in the next few years”.


Ashlyn Watkins:

In November of 2021, five star recruit Ashlyn Watkins announced she will play college basketball for Dawn Staley and the Gamecocks. Watkins is originally from Columbia, South Carolina and currently attends Cardinal Newman High School as a senior. Watkins is ranked No. 12 overall nationally in the class of 2022.

In high school, she has a career average of 15.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks as a center. Watkins, who is 6’3, became internet famous for her ability to dunk, which is extremely uncommon even in WNBA basketball. No USC player has ever dunked in a game. Next year as a freshman, Watkins definitely has the ability to make history at the University of South Carolina.