South Carolina strives to stay undefeated to win NCAA title

Boston discusses South Carolina's success, Sweet 16 (2:00)

Following a 76-45 win over 8-seed South Florida, Aliyah Boston says the top-seeded Gamecocks' discipline and depth are key to advancing in the NCAA tourney. (2:00)

More than a year has passed since the South Carolina women's college basketball team has lost. Can the Gamecocks go undefeated the rest of the 2022-23 season?

South Carolina is four victories from becoming the 10th team in NCAA Division I women's basketball history to run the table to win the national title -- and the first team since UConn in 2015 and 2016 to win back-to-back championships. Breanna Stewart and UConn put together the last perfect season, going 38-0 in 2016.

South Carolina won its second-round NCAA tournament game Sunday to improve to 34-0 this season.

The Gamecocks haven't lost since the SEC title game on March 6, 2022. After that defeat, South Carolina won six consecutive games to clinch its second NCAA championship. And the Gamecocks -- led by reigning national player of the year Aliyah Boston and leading scorer Zia Cooke, who start alongside three other seniors -- haven't fallen since. South Carolina has won 19 consecutive games against AP-ranked opponents.

We're tracking South Carolina's perfect run, examining how the Gamecocks compare to the previous nine undefeated women's national champions and revisiting perfect teams of the past.


NCAA tournament analysis

SECOND ROUND: After trailing at the end of the first quarter for just the seventh time all season, the Gamecocks roared back to life in the second half, outscoring South Florida 43-16 behind a suffocating defense, dominance on the glass and firepower in transition. Aliyah Boston (11 points, 11 rebounds) recorded her 81st career double-double, Zia Cooke had the second 20-point NCAA tournament game of her career and the Gamecocks' bench outscored USF's 30-5. Boston, Cooke and their fellow seniors finished their storied collegiate careers in Columbia with a 58-1 record at Colonial Life Arena, which means they could have as many or more national championships as home losses. South Carolina also recorded the ninth 40-game win streak in NCAA Division I women's basketball history and advanced to a ninth consecutive Sweet 16 appearance. -- ESPN's Alexa Philippou

FIRST ROUND: South Carolina didn't have its best offensive performance or outing on the glass Friday, but it didn't matter. Behind their trademark defense, the Gamecocks took care of business and beat No. 16 seed Norfolk State 72-40. "If it wasn't for the way we play defense, [Norfolk State] would've probably given us a lot of trouble given how we shot the ball," coach Dawn Staley said. The Gamecocks were held to 38.9% shooting, missed 16 free throws and allowed 14 offensive boards, but South Carolina held the Spartans to 26.2% shooting. Cooke finished in double figures for the 28th time this season, while Laeticia Amihere also joined her with 11 points. -- Philippou

Gamecocks channeling previous unbeaten teams

South Carolina's calling cards this season have been defense, rebounding and depth, strengths of many unbeaten teams of the past. ESPN's M.A. Voepel explains how the Gamecocks remind him of the 1986 Texas Longhorns team that became the first NCAA squad to go undefeated. Alexa Philippou dissects what stands out statistically about South Carolina compared to other perfect teams. And Charlie Creme examines how the Gamecocks might even have the edge over the 2016 Huskies in an important statistical metric. Story

A look at how South Carolina compares statistically with previous unbeaten teams:

Gamecocks defense suffocates Spartans in first round

Despite having a tough shooting game, 1-seed South Carolina relies on its defense to rout 16-seed Norfolk State, 72-40, in the NCAA Tournament.

Which teams might challenge South Carolina?

During "College GameDay" late last month, analysts Andraya Carter, Rebecca Lobo and Carolyn Peck discussed what it would take to upend the Gamecocks -- and three teams that might be able to do it.

Carter: "The Gamecocks, in my opinion, can't be beat by anybody when they're playing their best. But if South Carolina doesn't bring its A-game, or if it starts to slip, Iowa can contend with South Carolina. Iowa hits nine 3-pointers a game. You have to be able to knock down 3s to compete with the Gamecocks because of the way they rebound the basketball. Iowa is shooting 50% from the field. Caitlin Clark is a walking 30-point, triple-double any single night. The Hawkeyes have a ton of weapons. South Carolina had 14 blocks against Ole Miss [in the SEC semifinals]. Clark is a crafty player who can score around some of that length."

Lobo: "UConn intrigues me. We don't know exactly what the Huskies are quite yet. It's very similar to last year, when Paige Bueckers joined the team with two games left in the regular season. Before she returned, they did not look like a Final Four-caliber team. Once she did, they became a national championship contender. This year, it's a very similar situation with Azzi Fudd. She rejoined the team Saturday and UConn won by double digits for the first time in over a month. They did not have a double-digit victory in February. Fudd completely changes this team. After Saturday's game, Geno Auriemma said it just feels right when she's on the floor. He said nobody in America is adding a player like Fudd. All of her teammates now can take a deep breath because they don't feel like every shot they take is life or death. It's going to be really interesting to see what UConn looks like heading into March Madness."

Peck: "Indiana can give them a run. Teri Moren has said this is her best defensive team she has had at Indiana. A lot of that has to do with the presence of Grace Berger at the point and Mackenzie Holmes inside. That's a good one-two punch. And then they have shooters on the perimeter in Yarden Garzon and Sara Scalia. The X factor is Sydney Parrish. She has brought the attitude and experience from success she had at Oregon to Bloomington."

Past perfection

From the first team in NCAA women's history to go unbeaten (Texas 1986) to the most recent (UConn 2016), we've covered them all. A look back at select stories from each team's perfect run.