- Michelle Smith, Contributor, espnW.com
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STANFORD, Calif. -- South Carolina became the second No. 1 seed to fall on Sunday, losing to North Carolina 65-58 in a game that went down to the final minute.
The Gamecocks waited too long to find their groove offensively, sinking just nine field goals in the first half to fall behind 29-21 at the break.
A Tar Heels team that has been defined by its talented freshman class is now one game away from the program's first Final Four appearance since 2007.
It was North Carolina's second win over the Gamecocks this season; the Tar Heels also won their December matchup.
KEY STAT: It was a tough shooting day for South Carolina's backcourt. Tiffany Mitchell, Khadijah Sessions and Asia Dozier combined to shoot 7-for-29 from the floor.
TURNING POINT: South Carolina rallied behind freshman post Alaina Coates and cut UNC's lead to 53-51 with 5:05 to go. But the Tar Heels responded in kind, going inside to Stephanie Mavunga. She scored in the paint with 4:49 left and then completed a three-point play with 2:40 remaining to put the Tar Heels up 59-51.
KEY PLAYER: Diamond DeShields. North Carolina. The Tar Heels freshman doesn't look at all intimidated by the bright lights of the NCAA tournament. DeShields finished with 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting, despite twice leaving the game with injuries. DeShields didn't score in the final seven minutes, but by that time, the Tar Heels were going inside and holding on for the big finish.
HOW IT WAS WON: North Carolina stayed cool when South Carolina made its late-game run and hit 6 of 8 free throws in the final 1:45 -- including 5-of-6 by reserve Brittany Rountree -- to ice the victory.
WHAT'S NEXT: North Carolina will take on second-seeded Stanford on Tuesday night (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET) on the Cardinal's home floor in front of what is sure to be a near-sellout crowd.
19dBonnie D. Ford