South Dakota State coach Aaron Johnston figures the one way the Jackrabbits could have won their NCAA tournament opener on Saturday was to get a better seed.
The 13th-seeded Jackrabbits were no match in a 74-52 loss to No. 4 seed South Carolina, which got 15 points and 11 rebounds from Ashley Bruner.
The Gamecocks (25-7), who won a school-record 11 Southeastern Conference games this season, used their superior athleticism and stout defense to make quick work of the Jackrabbits (25-8), the Summit League regular season and tournament champs.
The Jackrabbits hung tough for about 10 minutes, then the Gamecocks broke down their man-to-man defense and started getting easy looks at the basket and making plenty of trips to the foul line.
The Jackrabbits have been one-and-done in each of their past four trips to the NCAA tournament, seeded 14th, 15th, 13th and 13th.
Their only NCAA win came in 2009, when they were a No. 7 seed and beat TCU before losing to Baylor.
"Well, it's a challenge," Johnston said. "I remember our first year we were a 7 seed and that's a much better position to be in versus who you're going to be playing against. If we stay in that 13-14-15 seed, we're going to be playing people who are top-20 teams.
"We've played the kind of non-conference schedule that it takes to get a little better seed, and I thought we played pretty well this year. We just didn't have a couple of (more) wins that we needed."
So, while the Gamecocks advanced to the second round Monday, the Jackrabbits prepared to go home and work toward that elusive better seed.
"The difference between being a 13 seed and a 10 seed is probably two wins for us," Johnston said. "We're not talking about having to go back and reshape everything we do."
The Gamecocks are seeking their second straight trip to the round of 16 under coach Dawn Staley, who led Virginia to three Final Fours as a player.
Guard Ieasia Walker, the SEC defensive player of the year, finished with 15 points. She also helped hold South Dakota State to 33 percent shooting in the first half as the Gamecocks raced to a 44-26 halftime lead on the strength of 61 percent shooting and 10 forced turnovers.
South Carolina led by as many as 27 in the second half as the Jackrabbits, despite 15 points from Ashley Eide, didn't have a run in them.
Elem Ibian added 13 points and eight rebounds while patrolling the paint for the Gamecocks.
Only four teams have reached the 60-point mark against South Carolina, and the Jackrabbits looked primed to make it five when they hung with the Gamecocks for the first 10 minutes of the game.
The Gamecocks, who matched last season's win total with their 25th victory, the most by the program in the SEC era (beginning 1991-92), found their shooting touch midway through the first half, sinking seven straight shots to build a 28-21 lead.
"They were just really getting to the basket and making free throws and, you're fouling them, so they were making free throws, too," Jackrabbits center Katie Lingle said.
The Gamecocks began pulling away when Tiffany Mitchell and Asia Dozier sank 3-pointers from the left corner to push the lead to double digits.
"We just didn't recover," Johnston said.
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