The Louisville women’s basketball team is going back to the Final Four.
For the first time since 2018, when Louisville lost in overtime to Mississippi State, the Cardinals are one of the last four teams playing. The Cardinals (28-4, 16-2 ACC) clinched the trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota, with a 76-64 win over No. 3-seed Michigan on Monday.
The Cardinals, the top seed in the Wichita region, will now prepare for No. 1 overall seed South Carolina in the Final Four. The Gamecocks have been the No. 1 team in the country all year and have been the favorites to win the national championship after losing in the 2021 Final Four to eventual-champion Stanford a year ago.
Here’s a breakdown of South Carolina, including players to watch, matchups and a key to success for Louisville:
How South Carolina got to the Final Four
The Gamecocks dominated during the regular season and cruised to a 29-1 record entering the SEC Tournament. South Carolina lost in the finals of the SEC Tournament to Kentucky, but didn’t seem too rattled by the loss in the NCAA Tournament.
South Carolina blew out No. 16 Howard 79-21 to open the tournament and held off a physical Miami team 49-33 in the second round. In its Sweet 16 game on Friday, South Carolina beat North Carolina 69-61 and then beat 10-seed Creighton 80-50 in Sunday’s Elite Eight matchup.
More:How to watch Louisville women’s basketball in the Final Four: Tickets, TV info
Players to watch for South Carolina
Aliyah Boston: You can’t mention South Carolina and leave Boston out of the conversation. My pick for the national player of the year, Boston has been the best player on the best team in the country all season. The 6-foot-5 forward leads South Carolina with 16.8 points and averages 12.4 rebounds per game for the Gamecocks. She’s a physical force inside who Louisville will have to game plan around.
Destanni Henderson: A poised and experienced guard, Henderson is a difference maker for the Gamecocks. She is second on the team with 11.1 points per game, is second in steals and leads the way with 122 assists, as well. Louisville likes to get pressure on the opposing team’s guards, but Henderson has 2.1 turnovers per game this year. She’s also the best shooter from deep at 37.9% on a team that shoots just 30.8% from deep on the year.
What is South Carolina good at and bad at?
Great at rebounding: Tennessee was a good rebounding team, but South Carolina is the best in the country. The Gamecocks have the highest rebounding margin in the country, pulling down 17.8 more rebounds per game than their opponents. They don’t let their opponents get extra possession on the offensive glass, so Louisville will need to make shots and clean up the defensive glass on its own end. Boston has 138 offensive rebounds this 12th in the country, so she’s able to get easy points after missed shots.
Struggles to shoot from deep: South Carolina isn’t a great shooting team. The Gamecocks shoot a little more than 30% from deep and have been exposed for their poor shooting the last few games. Kentucky held the Gamecocks to 33% shooting from the field during the SEC Championship, South Carolina made 8-of-38 3-pointers against Howard, made 4-of-18 against Miami but improved a bit against North Carolina, making 7-of-19. If South Carolina is hitting shots from deep, they’re nearly impossible to beat.
Matchup to watch
Olivia Cochran vs. Aliyah Boston: Cochran has been great in big matchups this season and she was terrific on Mondaybut she’ll face her biggest test Friday. Cochran will have to find ways to stay out of foul trouble, but also keep Boston off the glass. Boston is going to score, but offensive rebounds will give her too many easy baskets.
Key to success for Louisville vs. South Carolina
Rebounding. Rebounding. Rebounding.
Heading into the Tennessee game in the Sweet 16, Louisville emphasized rebounding so much that the bench was yelling rebound after every shot went up. It will need to do even more Friday.
The Cardinals have to find ways to keep South Carolina off the glass and especially the offensive glass. If Louisville can do that it will give itself a chance against the Gamecocks because the defense will be there.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism