WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — South Carolina coach Dawn Staley and assistant Nikki McCray kept watching the game clock Monday night.
Fortunately for them, their players were too busy playing defense to worry about the time.
Markeshia Grant scored 21 points and the fifth-seeded Gamecocks forced 20 turnovers in a 72-61 victory over No. 4 seed Purdue in the second round of the NCAA Women’s Tournament.
“Coach McCray and I always give each other a look to speed up the clock, and it wouldn’t go down any faster,” Staley said, drawing laughter. “It’s a happy time. It’s a great day to be a Gamecock.”
There have been a lot of great days this season for the Gamecocks (25-9), who won at Tennessee for the first time, made their first appearance in the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinals and earned their first NCAA bid since 2003. By advancing Monday, they matched the 2001-02 team for the school’s most wins in the SEC era.
Next up is top-seeded Stanford on Saturday. The Cardinal defeated eighth-seeded West Virginia 72-55 in Norfolk, Va.
Staley reached the round of 16 for the first time in seven tries as a coach, and South Carolina made it to the regional semifinals for the first time since 2002.
“It means so much to me, especially because I’m a senior and I’ve worked so hard to get to this point,” Grant said. “Growing up you always see the Tennessees, the Stanfords, the UConns playing at this level, and just to see what we did was just incredible. And then this is the first time coach Staley has ever been to the Sweet 16, so it’s even more special.”
Ieasia Walker had 17 points, six rebounds and four assists for the Gamecocks.
KK Houser led the Boilermakers (25-9) with 15, and leading scorer Brittany Rayburn scored 13.