Davis leads Gamecocks past Florida State, back to Final Four

Davis leads Gamecocks past Florida State, back to Final Four

**Story by Jeff Owens/Photo by SC Media Relations**

STOCKTON, Calif — Florida State found a way to contain All-American A'Ja Wilson, but it had no answer for Kaela Davis. 

With Wilson in foul trouble for much of the game, Davis took control of her Gamecock team and lifted them to a 71-64 victory and a trip to the Final Four. 

Davis led South Carolina with 23 points and made big shot after big shot in the Elite Eight matchup against Florida State. She was named the Most Outstanding Player as South Carolina won the Stockton Regional and advanced to the Final Four for the second time in three years. Wilson and Allisha Gray were also named to the all-tournament team. 

Wilson named first-team All-American

Florida State trailed the whole game but put together a furious fourth-quarter rally to pull within three at 65-62 with just over two minutes remaining. But with 1:40 left, Davis made a dramatic drive to the basket and converted a layup to put South Carolina back up by 5. 

After Florida State missed its next three shots, Davis sank a free throw with 24 seconds remaining and Tyasha Harris added three more in the final seconds to seal it. 

"With A'Ja, she draws a lot of attention," Davis said. "With her out, we had to still score. They were making runs but we had to find a way to counter that and balance it out a little."

Davis, who had 28 points against Quinnipiac in the Sweet 16, led South Carolina with 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting. Wilson and Harris added 16 points each, while Gray had 11. 

Harris also had six rebounds and three steals as the Gamecocks were outstanding on defense, holding FSU to 36 percent from the field while shooting 57.8 percent. 

"I think tonight the biggest thing was defense," Davis said. "We found ways to get stops." 

"We just stuck with the game plan and focused on defense and trying to stop our man," said Harris, who made a big steal to stop Florida State on its final possession with 11 seconds remaining.

South Carolina led 40-29 at the half, but Wilson picked up her third foul early in the second half and had to go to the bench. With her out of the game, Florida State began to get to the basket, scoring on four straight possessions. 

But every time the Seminoles looked like they might chip away at the lead, Davis came up with another driving layup. She scored eight of her 23 points in the third quarter as South Carolina led 55-45 after three. 

"Since we have gone to a smaller lineup it has created more scoring opportunities for Kaela and more driving lanes and more opportunities for her to pull up," head coach Dawn Staley said. "She sees that and she is hitting the holes like a running back. For her to perform the way she has this weekend shows what kind of player she is." 

A three by Harris to start the fourth quarter pushed the Gamecocks' lead to 58-45 when Florida State began to rally. South Carolina led 63-56 when Wilson picked up her fourth foul. Florida State then went on a 6-2 run to cut the lead to three. 

That's when Davis rose to the occasion again, her slashing drive to the basket halting Florida State's rally and putting the Seminoles away. 

"Just attacking it," Davis said of the basket. "We weren't settling for jump shots. Toward the fourth quarter we were passing it and waiting for a good shot to come. We had to create a good shot for ourselves … I think I saw everybody a little raised up and just found a gap." 

FSU head coach Sue Semreu has seen Davis, a transfer from Georgia Tech, before and was not surprised that she stepped up in the biggest game of the season. 

"I think she's been better for them since Alaina Coates has been out," she said. "She knows … she wants to be a scorer and she's an excellent scorer."

Coates, South Carolina's senior center, has missed the last eight games with a ankle injury. With her out, Staley has gone to a four-guard lineup and it has led to a nine-game winning streak and a trip to the Final Four. 

"Not having Alaina puts the ball in (Kaela's) hands a lot more. You don't ever want anybody's career to end, but it has been a blessing in disguise and Kaela has benefitted from it," Staley said. 

Davis and Gray scored on South Carolina's first two possessions for a 5-0 lead and the Gamecocks never trailed in the first half. They went up 17-10 on Wilson's bucket and 24-17 on a three by Harris at the end of the first quarter.

Florida State rallied in the second quarter, cutting the lead to three at 28-25, but Gray scored back-to-back baskets to push the lead back to nine. A driving layup and two free throws by Davis gave South Carolina a 40-29 lead at the half. 

The Gamecocks shot 60 percent from the field in the first half to just 38 percent for FSU. 

The Gamecocks will play Stanford in the Final Four in Dallas on Friday. 

"This feels amazing," Wilson, a first-team All-American, said. "The first time was great and you can never knock it, but this time is special to just be able to be around these girls and get this win with this group."