#1 South Carolina won the SEC Tournament for the 7th time in the last 9 seasons

Dawn Staley didn’t hesitate a few weeks ago when asked if she was worried about her team continuing their stellar season. He says it doesn’t affect his South Carolina Gamecox mind at all.

If the way they played en route to winning the program’s seventh SEC Tournament title in women’s basketball is any indication, all the weight will be on those trying to prevent them from claiming a second straight national championship.

The Gamecocks moved to 32-0 on Sunday with a 74-58 win over the Tennessee Lady Vols in the SEC final in Greenville, South Carolina. After an undefeated SEC regular season — South Carolina’s third straight under Staley — the Gamecocks won three SEC Tournament games by 27, 29 and 16 points.

Sunday’s win in the SEC final came a year after South Carolina’s last loss: 64-62 in the SEC Tournament championship game on March 6 in Nashville. The Gamecocks lost on a last-second shot by the Kentucky Wildcats, but there was no such drama this year.

Guard Zia Cook led South Carolina with 24 points, while Aaliyah Boston, the projected No. 1 pick in April’s WNBA draft, had 18 points and seven rebounds and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

South Carolina will be the No. 1 overall team in the NCAA Tournament and host early-round games. They are sure to be assigned to the Greenville Regional in the arena where they win on Sunday. It’s just 104 miles away from Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, away from home for the Gamecocks. So if they reach the Sweet 16, they won’t have the opportunity to travel.

“I took the time to listen to it today,” Staley said of Sunday’s cheering crowd. “They are proud of their team and the product we put on the ground. It really helps us.”

The Gamecocks have been the highest scoring team in women’s college basketball since 2015 and will continue to pack the house as long as they play. They are now six wins away from Staley’s third NCAA title with the program. The first of them was in 2017.

It was a great program under Staley, who took over as South Carolina’s head coach in 2008. All of their SEC tournament titles have come during his time there since 2015.

“We used to come into this tournament and leave in the same day,” Staley said. “And the season is over. He was just working to get here. We’re just going to enjoy it.”

Going undefeated this season could be the first for South Carolina. In NCAA women’s basketball history, there have been nine teams from four programs to complete a season without a loss: Texas Longhorns (1986), UConn Huskies (1985, 2002, 2009 2010, 2014, 2016), Tennessee (1998) and Baylor Bears (2012).

The Gamecocks lost twice before making a dominant run in the NCAA Tournament last season. With so many players returning, South Carolina hasn’t had a flurry this season.

“It’s an experienced group,” Staley said. “Now I think we can embrace who we are and play with as much composure and poise as we have to play because they’ve been there. It’s part of their daily routine, and once you’ve developed postseason habits, you’ll find it. If you can be who you are throughout the season, that’s where you can find comfort and a way to adapt and navigate.”

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