The Quinnipiac Bobcats picked up that tag this postseason after knocking off the No. 5 and No. 4 seeded teams in their bracket on the same weekend, the program's first NCAA Tournament wins in school history. But the No.12 Bobcats ran into a buzz saw against No.1 seed South Carolina in the Stockton Region at Stockton Arena. .
"I thought they were very good all day long," Quinnipiac coach Tricia Fabbri said. "We knew we would have our hands full and I said [Friday] the lone remark I did say I just knew they were really good defensively and it was very … they disrupted us all day long."
Juniors Kaela Davis (28 points, 5 of 6 three-pointers), A'Ja Wilson (24) and Allisha Gray (19) paced an offense that shot a blistering 61 percent from the field, opened the game with a 16-0 blitz, never looked back and drilled Quinnipiac 100-58 in the Sweet 16 contest. South Carolina led by as many as 44 points, 90-46, with 5 minutes 39 seconds to play.
"The biggest thing for us in this particular game is our speed," South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. "We wanted to speed them up. We didn't want them to be comfortable in their sets and allowing them to read what our defense is, and then staying in front of them. Just staying in between them and the basket and not allowing them to get ahead of the possession because once they are ahead of the possession it's hard to fight your way back and they will get open threes when it's like that."
The loss represented the biggest of the season for the Bobcats, who lost to Michigan State by 17 points in December and was the first time they allowed an opponent 100 or more points since a 111-84 loss to Oklahoma in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in 2015.
Adily Martucci and Jen Fay had 12 points each to lead Quinnipiac (29-7). South Carolina (30-4) is into the Elite Eight but hoping to get back and become a regular at the Final Four. The Gamecocks' last visit was in 2014-15.
If they get the kind of effort they got Saturday they'll be a tough out Monday night against No. 3 Florida State, a 66-53 winner against No. 2 Oregon State.
Staley had her share of concerns about Quinnipiac and she said Friday she hoped her team would not be the next team to fall victim to the Bobcats. So the Gamecocks dealt with it from the jump, cutting off any momentum from three-point range (6 of 13) and forcing a methodical offense to speed up, which it was hardly accustomed to and showed in 17 turnovers.
The three was going to have to be a factor if Quinnipiac was going to have a chance. They did a lot of it at their shoot-around before practice Friday and spent extra before the game doing it before the game. Led by the 6-5 Wilson, the Gamecocks were too big inside and didn't allow any consistency in the paint. Quinnipiac knew that going in. South Carolina had a whopping 35-18 edge there.
"We ran the same offense that we've been running all year that's been working really well," Fay said. "I think the difference was that they were just a little bit faster, a little bit stronger and a little bit bigger and I think it took its toll as the game went on."
And it was the Gamecocks who were vicious from the outside, hitting 63 percent from three (10 of 16), and hitting 18 of 19 free throws didn't hurt either.
"Yeah, they shot lights out," Martucci said. "Our game plan was to really try to help ... our bigs with Wilson. And something's got to give when that happens. Those threes really were daggers. I felt like they shot 100 percent from the three-point line; it felt like that. They shot very well."
Quinnipiac wound up shooting 43 percent for the game but they were 2 for 14 after the first quarter and trailed 22-7. The Bobcats had a better second quarter but they still trailed 45-28 at the half. Of course South Carolina followed that up with a 31-17 advantage in the third quarter and a 24-14 bulge to end the game with a 55-point second half.
The beat just did not stop against Quinnipiac.
"I thought we could have done … hopefully just made more plays," Fabbri said. "I thought we were not as moving and cutting and reading and playing as well as a unit today. But again, I can't say it enough. I'm being repetitive — sorry — South Carolina had a lot to do with that."
It did but as bad as this loss was it couldn't wipe away a magical season that easy or what the future could hold for the program, which started four sophomores.
"Now everyone in women's basketball has paid attention to our story and we plan to use that," Fabbri said. "Now getting a taste of the Sweet 16, being here the second weekend will now be a part of what we want to continue to build upon for this program going forward."
|Rich Pedroncelli / AP South Carolina guard Allisha Gray drives between Quinnipiac's Aryn McClure, left, and Adily Martucci during the second half of the Stockton Regional semifinal Saturday. South Carolina won, 100-58.|
Geno Auriemma shows support for Quinnipiac during Friday's press conference
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- Count Geno Auriemma as a big supporter of Connecticut's other Sweet 16 team, surprising Quinnipiac and coach Tricia Fabbri.
Auriemma pulled open his UConn warmup jacket to reveal a Quinnipiac shirt during a press conference Friday.
"I wouldn't want to be in their bracket. They remind me of our '91 team," Auriemma said. "I watched them play ... and with 8 minutes left in the game I said I think they're going to win. Everyone in the place was going nuts. I thought `Oh my god, this is 1991 replaying itself."
Auriemma guided UConn to the Final Four for the first time in 1991. The Hall of Fame coach was proud that two teams from Connecticut -- located about 56 miles apart -- reached the Sweet 16. It's the first time the Huskies have company from the state in the regional semifinals.
The news of Auriemma's thoughtful choice in attire quickly reached the Bobcats across the country in Northern California, where they play top-seeded South Carolina on Saturday in the Stockton Regional.
"It's awesome, just the support we've had in general, and then especially from him and his team," Quinnipiac guard Adily Martucci said. "He's a great coach and the spotlight is always on him. A lot of people saw that."
Fabbri became a bit emotional when asked about Auriemma's support.
"Well, first of all, Geno has been such a mentor for me going way back," she said. "He helped me in this process, get the job at Quinnipiac a long, long time ago, 22 years ago. But really just a gold standard, a great guy, and then he was so excited. He reached out as soon as we won, and so complimentary of what we were able to accomplish over the weekend.
"The fact that he is wearing our shirt in support of our team in this tournament, at this time, just so thankful. And very grateful for his support and UConn women's basketball's support of Quinnipiac women's basketball and the two teams in Connecticut representing women's basketball in the Sweet 16."
South Carolina's players acknowledged they hadn't heard of Quinnipiac -- pronounced KWIHN'-ih-pee-ak -- until a couple of days ago.
"I don't want to pronounce it. I don't want to mess it up," A'ja Wilson said. "I just know that they are the Bobcats from Connecticut."