South Carolina women open NCAA with Staley’s 500th win


SAN ANTONIO — South Carolina coach Dawn Staley got her 500th career victory when Aliyah Boston and the top-seeded Gamecocks beat Mercer 79-53 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.

Boston had 20 points and 18 rebounds for South Carolina (23-4), which grabbed the lead for good when it closed the first half with a 16-5 run. Victaria Saxton also scored 20 points in the Hemisfair Region game at the Alamodome.

The Gamecocks were national champs in 2017, when the Final Four was last played in Texas. They finished 32-1 last season, spent the final 10 weeks at No. 1 and Staley was the AP coach of the year, but didn’t get a chance to win another title because the NCAA Tournament was canceled because of the pandemic.

Amoria Neal-Tysor had 15 points for Mercer (19-7). Jada Lewis added 14 points, and Shannon Titus finished with 12.

Staley is 328-102 in her 13 seasons at South Carolina, after going 172-80 in eight seasons at Temple. The SEC Tournament champion Gamecocks are in their ninth consecutive NCAA tourney, winning in the first round each time.

It was Boston’s 28th double-double in 60 career games. The All-American forward from the U.S. Virgin Islands had 15 points and 10 rebounds at break. She made a 3-pointer at the buzzer, which came right after Lewis hit a 3 to end an 11-0 run by the Gamecocks.

After being down 11 points in the first quarter, Mercer opened the second with a 15-4 run. They got even at 27-all on a long jumper by Neal-Tysor, prompting a timeout by Staley, not long after Neal-Tysor had a steal and a breakaway layup.


Mercer was in its third consecutive NCAA Tournament, but wouldn’t have made it last year, when the Bears were 8-23. The Southern Conference Tournament champions were the most improved of the 64 teams to make it into this year’s NCAA Tournament, with 11 more wins and 16 fewer losses.


South Carolina is playing without its only senior, with 6-foot-2 guard LeLe Gressett sidelined by a right foot injury suffered in the SEC Tournament championship game.


The Gamecocks will play either Oregon State or Florida State in the second round Tuesday.

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