BOULDER, Colo. – The fourth-seeded South Carolina Gamecocks had three players post double-doubles. They set a school record for an NCAA tournament game with 26 offensive rebounds.
Yet, it was the Kansas Jayhawks who were chanting "Sweet 16!" on Monday night.
The Jayhawks returned to the round of 16 thanks to senior Monica Engelman, who scored a career-high 27 points as Kansas became only the second No. 12 seed to advance to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament with a 75-69 upset of the Gamecocks.
Angel Goodrich added 20 points and eight assists for Kansas. More importantly, her speed was a game-changer.
"It was a hard-fought, physical game," South Carolina forward Aleighsa Welch said. "It was really an up-and-down tempo."
That's not the Gamecocks' style. They gave up just 49.5 points per game this season and Kansas nearly had that by halftime.
"I told our team at the half, 'We give up 32 points in entire games,'" South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. "The pace of the game was not our pace. They made us play a little quicker. I thought we were pretty efficient on the floor offensively, but in order for us to stay in basketball games we have to control games from a defensive standpoint, and we didn't do that."
Staley said having Sancheon White, her best defender, play just 8 minutes in the first half because of foul trouble was a big part of Engelman's big night.
"It was her defensive assignment. We could have used her speed, but when you're playing two freshmen (Khadijah Sessions and Tiffany Mitchell) in a big game like this, it's pretty difficult to ask them to do things they haven't done," Staley said.
"She was hot. When a player gets going like that, it's hard to stop."
Engelman, whose previous career best was 26 points against TCU last month, credited Goodrich.
"For me, Angel made it easy," Engelman said. "I mean, she's a great point guard, she can push the ball, so she makes everyone else want to sprint up the floor and get easy buckets in transition."
Goodrich's speed allowed the Jayhawks to push the pace much faster than the Gamecocks are used to.
"That's what we wanted to do, we want to control the tempo," Goodrich said. "When we run we have fun. We wanted to catch them off-balance, catch them when they're not ready, because when they set up, they're really good."
Goodrich and the Jayhawks (20-13) joined San Francisco in 1996 as the only No. 12 seeds to follow up a win in the opening round with another in the second. No. 12 seeds are now 2-15 in the second round since the women's field was expanded to 64 teams in 1994.
The Jayhawks moved on to Norfolk, Va., where they face the winner of Tuesday's game between Notre Dame and Iowa in the regional semifinals Sunday.
South Carolina (25-8) was denied in its quest for its 26th win, which would have been the program's most since joining the Southeastern Conference in 1991-92.
Still, the first meeting between the schools was an instant classic, a one-possession game in the final 30 seconds even though South Carolina didn't score again after Ashley Bruner's bucket with 2:52 left tied it at 69.
Bruner and Welch scored 16 points each and pulled down 12 and 11 rebounds, respectively. Elem Ibiam also had a double-double for South Carolina with 12 points and 10 boards.
Yet it's Kansas, which has won four straight games at the Coors Events Center, that is returning to the round of 16 after getting there last year as an 11 seed.
Kansas got a major scare when center Carolyn Davis limped off the court, favoring her left leg, after picking up her fourth foul with 6:40 left. A trainer took off her brace that protects the knee she injured last year, forcing her to miss the NCAA tournament. Welch sank both free throws to tie it at 65.
"It's always a scare to see someone go down and when I looked at her, she kind of just held her knee and I was just kind of like, 'Dang!' I didn't know what to think, really," Goodrich said. "But for her to get up and stand up, it relieved me a little bit.
"When that happens, you've got to stay composed and think we've still got time on the clock, we've still got a game to finish. But I'm glad she got back up and she got back in the game and she did what she needed to do."
It was 67-all when Davis returned with 3:50 remaining. She quickly denied Bruner's jumper, and her bucket with 2:30 left put Kansas ahead for good at 71-69.
Iseasia Walker missed a 3-pointer for South Carolina that would have tied it at 72 with less than a half-minute remaining, and Kansas sealed the win at the free throw line.
Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson suggested something else played a part in Engelman's career night. She said Engelman's mother finally made it to Boulder to watch her daughter play after being stuck in a blizzard for a day in the Colorado plains.
"That could be a little bit of it," Engelman agreed. "A little bit of that, and I needed to be aggressive."
That aggression helped wear down the Gamecocks by game's end.
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