Fulwiley leads South Carolina to 10th straight Sweet 16 with win over UNC

Freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley had 20 points including four 3-pointers, Kamilla Cardoso had a double-double in her return from a one-game suspension and unbeaten South Carolina powered into its 10th straight Sweet 16 with an 88-41 victory over eighth-seeded North Carolina in the Women’s NCAA Tournament on Sunday.

The top overall seed Gamecocks (34-0) needed everything they had to escape with single-digit wins the past two times they faced the Tar Heels (20-13). This time, South Carolina used a 15-0 first-quarter run to take control and get within four victories of a perfect championship season.

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The Gamecocks will play either No. 4 seed Indiana or No. 5 seed Oklahoma on Friday in the Albany 1 Region.

Cardoso, a 6-foot-7 center from Brazil, sat out the tournament opener Friday after her ejection for fighting at the Southeastern Conference Tournament title game two weeks ago. She finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, her 14th double-double this season.

The Tar Heels tried to keep things close. But the Gamecocks, at full strength and playing like their potent selves, outscored North Carolina 43-11 during a 14-minute stretch in the first half and were up 56-19 at the break.

The youngest, newest Gamecocks led the charge. Freshman Tessa Johnson hit two straight rainbow 3s and Fulwiley also hit from deep as South Carolina went ahead 28-8 after 10 minutes.

Chloe Kitts, a sophomore who hit all nine of her field goals for 21 points in the first round, scored 10 points on 3-of-4 shooting in the first half of this one. She finished with 12 points.

Tessa Johnson scored 11 points after going scoreless in the tournament-opening 91-39 win over No. 16 seed Presbyterian.

North Carolina got no closer than 31 points in the final two quarters. Maria Gadkeng, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds in Friday’s win over Michigan State, picked up three first-half fouls. Leading scorer Deja Kelly had two fouls and five of the Tar Heels’ 11 first-half turnovers.

Alyssa Ustby led North Carolina with 12 points.

North Carolina was held to its fewest points in its 81-game NCAA Tournament history. The Tar Heels’ previous low was a 55-46 loss to George Washington at the old Carolina Coliseum in Columbia 27 years ago.

The Gamecocks extended their program record with their 59th straight win at home in their final game of the season at Colonial Life Arena, where they averaged an NCAA-best 16,489 fans.

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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