McWilliams FTs lift Oregon State to 70-68 win over Gamecocks

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Katie McWilliams looked cool and collected — and felt that way, too.

McWilliams sank two free throws with 1.9 seconds left to give No. 9 Oregon State a 70-68 win over 13th-ranked South Carolina in the semifinals of the Vancouver Showcase on Friday night.

“I’ve been there before, last year when we played Washington State,” McWilliams said. “I had to hit two free throws for us to go ahead and win the game. I knew I was gonna knock them down. I knew my team had trust in me. So that’s what was in my head.”

Her winning shots capped a dramatic contest that featured a half-court buzzer-beater from Oregon State’s Destiny Slocum before half-time and a comeback from the Gamecocks after they appeared beaten.

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“In a game like this, when you have two Top-25 ranked teams, it’s never gonna go your way exactly, but it’s a great experience for us – especially in the preseason, preparing us for the rest to come in the future,” McWilliams said. “But I thought we played well. No matter if we got the calls or not, we were the better team tonight.”

McWilliams and Taya Corosdale led the Beavers (6-0) with 14 points apiece, while Mikayla Pivec added 11.

Te’a Cooper paced the Gamecocks (3-2) with 21 points and Alexis Jennings furnished 12.

“I’m really proud,” said Cooper of her team’s effort. “The bench came in and did a lot of good things. I think they really got us back into the game. They gave us energy.”

Oregon State led 37-29 at the half after Slocum drained a shot from half court at the buzzer.

“It’s the coaching,” Oregon State coach Scott Rueck joked with fans after the game when asked for his thoughts on the buzzer-beater.

“She was famous for that shot and then, tonight, throwing another one, it was really amazing,” said Rueck. “It was the perfect lead into halftime. They had gotten a little momentum right then, she took it right back before the half with an amazing shot.”

The buzzer-beater evoked memories of a long shot that Slocum sank for Maryland in 2016, where she earned NCAA freshman of the year honors before transferring and redshirting with the Beavers last season.

“It was kind of similar, but now I’m with OSU, so it felt really special,” Slocum said.

Slocum also set the stage for the winning free throws with a last-ditch pass.

“Broken plays, more times than not, are the difference-makers,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “Tonight, I thought Destiny Slocum made two great plays, one before the half and then one when the game was on the line. I thought it was a great heads-up play.”

Following a timeout, Slocum tried to set up a final shot in the closing seconds, but she slipped near center court while being guarded closely, retrieved the ball while on the floor and sent a high pass to McWilliams for an alley-oop. But McWilliams was fouled while going up for the ball, setting the stage for final two decisive free throws.

“The sticker (on the court bearing the tournament emblem) was slippery, and I wound up on the floor,” said Slocum. “And then I saw Katie went back door and I thought: Awe, I’m throwing it.”

KEY THREE

Cooper’s three-pointer with 25 seconds left capped a seemingly unlikely comeback, creating a 68-68 tie after the Gamecocks looked like there were out of the game earlier.

BIG PICTURE

Oregon State: The Beavers continue to shows signs of being able to move up in the rankings. Rueck said the win means little now, but the experience will help when games count for much more later in the year.

South Carolina: With the loss, the Gamecocks hurt their chances of moving back into the top 10. But Staley was glad that her team was able to fight and get better.

UP NEXT

Oregon State will play No. 1 Notre Dame in Saturday’s championship contest.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks will meet Drake on Saturday in the game to decide the tourney’s third-place finisher.

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