SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) Brianna Butler scored 10 of her 18 points in the fourth quarter, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:01 left, and Syracuse upset No. 1 seed South Carolina 80-72 in the Sioux Falls Regional semifinal of the women’s NCAA Tournament Friday night.
Syracuse trailed by as many as 13 late in the first half and was still down 11 in the middle of the third quarter before coming back to stun a Gamecocks team that looked destined to make another appearance in the Final Four.
Instead, the fourth-seeded Orange (28-7) head to a regional final for the first time after winning for the 14th time in 15 games. Syracuse plays Tennessee or Ohio State on Sunday in the regional final.
Alexis Peterson scored 25 points to lead the Orange, Brittney Sykes added 17 and Briana Day had 13 rebounds.
Alaina Coates had 18 points and 16 rebounds for South Carolina (33-2). A’ja Wilson had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Tina Roy added 17 points off the bench for the Gamecocks.
Butler, the NCAA active leader in career 3-pointers, made just six of her last 35 attempts from beyond the arc coming into the game, and she got off to a slow start against the Gamecocks (33-2). Her pull-up jumper tied it at 61, and her 3-pointer gave the Orange the lead for good after Coates converted an entry pass from Tiffany Mitchell for a two-point lead.
The Orange got a huge contribution from Cornelia Fondren, who swished a mid-range jumper for the lead after Butler tied it, and her three-point play with 1:56 left made it 71-66.
The Orange’s zone defense sagged on star post players Wilson and Coates, giving Roy, Mitchell and Bianca Cuevas open looks from the perimeter. The Gamecocks attempted a season-high 32 3-pointers, but made only eight.
The Gamecocks came in concerned about dealing with a pressing Syracuse defense that had been forcing 24.5 turnovers a game, most of any team in the country.
The press was hardly a factor the first three quarters because poor shooting limited the number of times the Orange could set it up. The first time South Carolina turned it over against the press was early in the fourth quarter, after Butler’s 3-pointer cut the lead to 56-52.
But with Peterson giving the Orange consistent scoring and Butler ramping up her offense late, the Orange were able to pull off their biggest win ever and avenge the loss to the Gamecocks that ended their season in 2015.