How the Gamecocks became the 10th team to complete an undefeated season

Posted 4/10/24

Only nine teams in the history of women’s college basketball have gone wire-to-wire undefeated and capped it with a national championship. On April 7, the South Carolina Gamecocks became the 10th. 

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Subscribe to continue reading. Already a subscriber? Sign in

Get 50% of all subscriptions for a limited time. Subscribe today.

You can cancel anytime.

Please log in to continue

Log in

How the Gamecocks became the 10th team to complete an undefeated season


Only nine teams in the history of women’s college basketball have gone wire-to-wire undefeated and capped it with a national championship. On April 7, the South Carolina Gamecocks became the 10th. 

The Gamecocks join Texas, Tennessee, Baylor and UConn, who did it six times. 

The season was perfect, but not at the same time. The team may have never lost, but they experienced their share of growing pains and close calls throughout the season. 

After last season’s loss to Iowa, there were a lot of questions about the Gamecocks’ future. The team lost all five starters and a share of its bench production and would need to rely on a mix of youth and returning, but less experienced players. 

South Carolina entered the season ranked sixth in the country behind teams including LSU, Iowa, UConn and Utah -- all teams they beat this year. 

From Paris to Cleveland, the Gamecocks took down everyone in their path. But regardless of the time of year, the team was challenged and overcame that challenge. 

Early on, the team played a close contest against No. 24 North Carolina on Nov 30 and escaped with a seven-point win. The Tar Heels jumped out to a 19-10 first-quarter league, and it took until the second half for the Gamecocks to control the lead. 

South Carolina showed their growth from that first meeting and easily handled the Tar Heels in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Gamecocks won 88-41 and surprised North Carolina’s final point total in the first half. 

The team found itself in another close battle against Utah on Dec. 10 against No. 11 Utah. The Gamecocks won that game by nine points after strong performances from Kamilla Cardoso and Te-Hina Paopao.

While those two games were close, the Gamecocks cruised past the rest of their opponents, winning all the other non-conference games by at least 15 points. During this time, the team’s young talent began to adjust to the college game and increase their contributions to the team. 

Freshman Milaysia Fulwiley caught the attention of fans around the country with a display of flashy highlights. The Columbia native averaged 11 points on 44% shooting this season. 

Raven Johnson stepped into a leadership role from the jump and provided a spark on both ends of the floor, leading the team in assists and steals this year. 

In conference play, South Carolina looked to improve its 16-game SEC win streak after going undefeated and winning the conference title last year. 

The Gamecocks got off to a five-win start in the SEC before facing the defending national champion LSU Tigers. 

South Carolina and LSU played a tight game in Baton Rouge with the Tigers leading entering the final quarter. But the Gamecocks outscored the Tigers by 10 in the final quarter to win the first of two meetings. 

That was the closest the team was to falling in the regular season. 

The Gamecocks’ perfect season almost came to a sudden halt in the SEC tournament, but it was saved after a miraculous heave from Cardoso. 

After beating Texas A&M by 11, the Gamecocks were seconds away from losing to Tennessee in the conference semifinal. The team trailed by two with only a few ticks left on the clock. 

After catching a sideline inbound pass, Cardoso turned towards the basket and threw up her second career three-point attempt and banked it in for her first-ever make. Her shot was completely uncontested as her defender remained down in the pain and watched the play unfold. 

The rematch against LSU in the SEC championship game ended with a similar margin as the first, but this time, South Carolina had control for the majority of the game. Some late-game dramatics would cost the team in the NCAA tournament though. 

Cardoso hit an LSU player with a retaliatory cheap shot, costing her the first game in the NCAA tournament. This suspension was upsetting for Cardoso but motivated her to come back and win for her team. 

In the big dance, everything the season had been building to all came together. The team dominated through the first two rounds in rematches against Presbyterian and UNC.

The team was tested again in the Sweet Sixteen. The Gamecocks and Indiana played a thriller that South Carolina won by four points after a late clutch three from Johnson. 

The Gamecocks punched their ticket to their fourth consecutive final four and second championship game in three seasons with double-digit wins over Oregon State and N.C. State, setting up a rematch with the team that ruined their undefeated quest last year. 

All of their close calls and the lessons learned along the way led the team to the final meeting with the Hawkeyes. A shot at redemption for some and history for all was on the line. 

The Gamecocks beat Iowa after being tested one final time early in the game. The Hawkeyes started on a 10-0 run in the first quarter, but South Carolina adjusted on the fly and took control of the game, completing the undefeated season.

The championship is the third of Dawn’s Dynasty and the second in the past three seasons. The team has shown a stretch of dominance similar to some of the great college basketball dynasties the past three years, compiling a record of 109-3. 

This year’s group was unlike any of Staley’s previous teams with how deep they were and how dominant they could be no matter who checked into the game. This era is just beginning with all but Cardoso eligible to come back for at least one more season. 

Gamecocks basketball, Iowa, Dawn Staley, NCAA tournament, women's basketball, Caitlin Clark


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here