2015 NCAA WBB: Clash of Carolinas between UNC and USC

GREENSBORO, N.C. – The 15th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels will tip off against the third-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks in Regional semifinal play in the 2015 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament at Greensboro Coliseum on Friday.

The game serves as a rematch of last year’s NCAA Regional Sweet 16 encounter between the two programs in the Stanford Regional – a game in which the Tar Heels beat the Gamecocks 65-58 to advance to the Elite 8.

North Carolina leads the two teams’ all-time series 11-7.

The Tar Heels (26-8), led by head coach Sylvia Hatchell, are making their second straight trip to the Sweet 16, and 15th in the last 20 years.

Last year, the team was led by associate head coach Andrew Calder while Hatchell recovered from treatment for leukemia

The Tar Heels beat LIberty, then Ohio State last weekend to advance to the NCAA Regional once again, and are now 45-20 under Hatchell, while making their 26th appearance in the tournament with an overall 47-24 record.

South Carolina (32-2) is making its 12th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and fourth straight under head coach Dawn Staley.

The Gamecocks hold a 15-11 all-time record in Tournament play with five Sweet 16 appearances.

Players to watch:

North Carolina: Allisha Gray (15.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.3 apg), Stephanie Mavunga (14.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.6 apg), Jessica Washington (7.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.1 apg)

South Carolina: Tiffany Mitchell (14.2 ppg, 3 rpg, 2.8 apg), A’ja Wilson (13.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.7 bpg), Alaina Coates (10.8 ppg, 8 rpg, 1.5 bpg)

X-factors: 

North Carolina: Latifah Coleman, Jamie Cherry, Danielle Butts

South Carolina: Aleighsa Welch, Asia Dozier, Bianca Cuevas

What they said before:

“South Carolina is an excellent team,” Hatchel said.

“I mean, they ‑‑ Dawn and her staff have done a really great job rebuilding that program. And gosh, I mean, they have got kids sitting on their bench that would start at most Division I schools. So they really have depth. I think they are talented at every position but they have so much depth. I mean, none of their players really average that many points; I’m sure they could. But they are so balanced and with all the kids playing and everything like that. So I just think the depth and then their size, there’s no doubt that A’ja Wilson has added a lot to their team. But they are experienced. Yeah, I don’t see any weaknesses really.

“It’s always a tough ‑‑ North Carolina is always a tough opponent,” Staley said.

“But when you look at our two games that we played against them last year, and our team this year, we are just a little bit different. We are a little bit older. I think we understand playing at this level a little bit better because we have that experience. I don’t think the game plan changes from how we approached it. I think it’s time for our players just to make plays when the game is on the line, and we weren’t able to do that in the previous two games. So hopefully that changes this time around.”

Tipoff will take place at 7 p.m.