Top-seeded South Carolina powers past Jacksonville 77-41

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) South Carolina forward Alaina Coates said coach Dawn Staley had a stern, succinct message for her cold-shooting Gamecocks early on against Jacksonville.

“She told us to pound the ball in the paint,” Coates said.

It’s worked for the top-seeded Gamecocks all season – and it worked once more to start the NCAA Tournament as twin post powers Coates and A’ja Wilson each had double doubles to lift South Carolina to a 77-41 victory over Jacksonville on Friday night.

The 6-foot-4 Coates had 22 points and 10 rebounds while 6-5 Wilson had 15 points and 11 boards.

The Gamecocks (32-1) next play No. 9 seed Kansas State on Sunday for a spot in the Sweet 16. Expect the game plan to go much like it did against first-time NCAA participant Dolphins (22-11).

South Carolina started just 2 of 9 from the field, often settling for shots away from the basket. Soon enough, though, Staley’s words got through and began a game of pitch and catch between Gamecock guards and Coates and Wilson. The two combined to shoot 15 of 30 from the field as the smaller Dolphins – their tallest player is 6-1 – had no way to respond.

“They just wore us down,” Jacksonville coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin said. “We just physically could not match with their bigs.”

Not many teams can. The one team that did this season was three-time defending NCAA champion UConn, who defeated South Carolina 66-54 a month ago.

Staley liked how her team stepped things up in the second half to turn an 11-point game into a blowout. The NCAA Tournament is a process, Staley says. She hopes to have the Gamecocks primed to challenge the Huskies at the Final Four next month.

“Obviously, we’ve been in this situation before. We’re familiar with it and nothing’s going to catch us off guard,” Staley said. “So it’s a process for our players to see what issues we had in this game and try and correct those things.”

The Dolphins were the Atlantic Sun Conference champions who came in with an eight-game winning streak, but quickly fell behind and could not catch up.

Briona Brown had 17 points to lead Jacksonville.

Tiffany Mitchell had 14 points for South Carolina, who has beaten its past five first-round opponents by an average of 27 points.

Jacksonville was ready to enjoy its first NCAA Tournament experience and, as coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin said Thursday, maybe “throw a little scare” into the Gamecocks.

That did not happen, although the Dolphins did hold a 2-0 lead on Sherranda Riddick’s two foul shots. Jacksonville didn’t score again for another six minutes as the Gamecocks steadily took over.

They were ahead by nine points at the end of the quarter and led 32-21 at the break.

Wilson, both the Southeastern Conference’s player of the year and defensive player of the year, was her dominant self, scoring 11 points and grabbing seven rebounds the first two quarters.

Jacksonville couldn’t hold up against South Carolina’s quick hands and pressure defense. The Gamecocks forced 21 turnovers and finished with 14 steals, their third highest total this season.

Peacock Classic 2022: How to watch Gonzaga vs. Baylor, live stream info and game preview

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Two of men’s college basketball’s elite programs are set to face off when the No. 6 Baylor Bears and No. 14 Gonzaga Bulldogs play in the inaugural “Peacock Classic” Friday night. The game marks a rematch of the highly-anticipated 2021 NCAA National Championship Game, and the Zags will certainly look to get some revenge after Baylor ended their bid at an undefeated season.

The two programs boast two of the best coaches in the country, with Scott Drew of Baylor and Mark Few of Gonzaga working the sidelines. The “Peacock Classic” also marks a crucial point in the development of name, image and likeness deals at the collegiate level. Read on to learn everything you need to know ahead of the event.


How to watch the 2022 “Peacock Classic”

Only those with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan can stream the event. Sign up here or, if you have a free account, upgrade to Premium by going to your account settings.


A new world of NIL opportunities

For the first time, college athletes will be able to earn money by promoting a game in which they are playing.

Eligible players for both Baylor and Gonzaga can opt-in through NBC Sports Athlete Direct – a NIL community connecting student-athletes, advertisers and fans – and promote the game’s sponsors on their personal social media channels.

All participating players will be paid the same rate for their involvement.


Rematch of 2021 NCAA National Championship Game and series history

Baylor’s 86-70 victory over Gonzaga in the 2021 championship game marked the Bears’ first-ever NCAA men’s basketball title. The game carried added stakes since the Bulldogs entered it with a 31-0 record – the first team to make the championship game without a loss since Larry Bird’s Indiana State Sycamores in 1979.

That matchup was a rightful bout between the two behemoths of that season – it was the first championship game that featured the tournament’s top two overall seeds since North Carolina beat Illinois in 2005. Baylor jumped all over Gonzaga in the early going, playing an aggressive style that prevented the Bulldogs from getting into their fluid offense and opened up its own attack for 3-pointers. Gonzaga was a -4.5-point favorite but never led in the game.

Gonzaga leads the all-time series between the teams 5-1, having won all their matchups with Baylor before the championship game. The previous meeting before 2021 saw Gonzaga eliminate Baylor from the 2019 NCAA tournament in the second round by a score of 83-71.


How Baylor and Gonzaga match up with each other

Both teams have been tested multiple times early in their seasons. Gonzaga (5-2) has defeated two teams currently ranked – No. 20 Michigan State and No. 19 Kentucky – but lost to No. 2 Texas and No. 5 Purdue. The Zags last played on Sunday, when they outlasted Xavier 88-84 to secure third place in the Phil Knight Legacy men’s tournament.

Baylor (5-2) has had it slightly easier but has still had to deal with talented teams; they lost to No. 3 Virginia and defeated No. 21 UCLA in back-to-back games earlier this month. They’re coming off a surprising 96-70 loss to Marquette in Wisconsin Tuesday night as part of the Big East-Big 12 Battle.

Gonzaga will face a tough task in trying to slow down Baylor’s offense, whose 88.1 points per game ranks ninth in the country.

The Bears are paced by a duo of strong guards. LJ Cryer leads the team at 17.9 points per game, and Adam Flagler is not far behind at 16.9 points per contest while averaging 6.9 assists.

Baylor also boasts the services of freshman Keyonte George, another talented guard who could be a lottery pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.

Naismith Player of the Year Award candidate Drew Timme leads the way for the Zags, averaging 20.3 points and 7.7 rebounds. He’s flanked by Julian Strawther, who’s putting up 14.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per night.

Timme and Strawther are two of the six Gonzaga players left over from the 2021 finalist team, so vengeance will be top of mind. Baylor also has six holdovers from that championship matchup, including Cryer and Flagler.

With both teams ranked and looking to prove themselves early in the season, Friday will be a statement game – in more ways than one.

NIL and NCAA: What to know about the new policy and how NBC Sports can help

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As of July 1, 2021, a new NCAA policy has been in effect allowing student-athletes from all three divisions to monetize their name, image, and likeness (often referred to as NIL). As long as the activities are “consistent with the law of the state where the school is located,” athletes now have the opportunity to accept endorsements from brands, monetize their social media presences, and work with professional firms to coordinate deals.

Click here for additional information and guidelines regarding NCAA NIL policies and keep reading to find answers to questions such as how NIL works as well as how NBC Sports can help.

What is NIL and NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

NBC Sports Athlete Direct is coming to a school near you. The program enables college student-athletes to earn money from their name, image, and likeness (NIL) through a unique marketplace that connects athletes with advertisers. NBC Sports Athlete Direct will work to provide equal opportunities to all student-athletes, regardless of which team you play on or any statistical performance.

How will the NIL Marketplace work?

Advertisers will use NBC Sports Athlete Direct to make NIL offers available to college student-athletes. College student-athletes will then have the option to participate in the NIL offer. Those who decide to participate and complete the advertiser’s campaign requirements will be compensated based on a predetermined rate.

How much money can athletes make participating in NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

Compensation will vary by advertiser campaign.

When will NBC Sports Athlete Direct launch and how can I sign up?

NBC Sports Athlete Direct will officially launch in the Fall of 2022 but prior to that, we will be launching a pilot program soon, exclusively for Temple and Vanderbilt student-athletes.

In the meantime, click here to fill out a student-athlete interest form and once it is available at your school, we will notify you and provide you with additional information on how to sign up.

If I participate in NIL offers from NBC Sports Athlete Direct, do I still have the freedom to do other NIL deals that are not related to NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

Yes, this program is non-exclusive so our student-athletes will have the freedom to participate in other NIL deals that are not related to NBC Sports Athlete Direct.

What are the rules or restrictions for participating in this program?

Unfortunately, international students and students under the age of 18 are not eligible to participate in the pilot program at this time.