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South Carolina’s PaoPao ready for the Iowa Final!

Te-Hina PaoPao needs just one more win to stamp an incredible career in NCAA Women’s basketball. The South Carolina senior guard transferred from Oregon last year and is now ready to raise the championship trophy with her Gamecock teammates if they can overcome Caitlin Clark and Iowa.


Te-Hina PaoPao last night!                                        C. Morgan Engle/NCAA Photos/Getty Images

Last night at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, South Carolina dominated their ACC NC State opponents in the NCAA Women’s national semifinal game, 78-59, setting up the final game rematch against Iowa, who narrowly escaped with a 71-69 win over UConn.



PaoPao, when asked afterwards if this was why she transferred, replied: “Yeah, absolutely. And it doesn’t feel real.”

PaoPao in Oregon

The 5’9” senior guard was an all-PAC 10 player her first two seasons at Oregon. After a WNIT run last year, Te-Hina decided to enter the transfer portal. Much to her surprise South Carolina came calling. Coach Dawn Staley just had her entire starting five leave school and was pressed to find help.


Here’s what PaoPao said at the time, thanks to reporter Emily Adams and the Greenville News.


“They just said they needed someone like me and felt like I was that piece that they were missing. Obviously, they’re going to bring in other pieces, but I feel like they really needed a player like me who’s a veteran, who’s been playing in the Pac-12 and someone who’s been been through it all.”


It’s been a wonderful fit for the recently named All-American.



Friday night in Cleveland


The Gamecocks were led by their “beautiful Brazilian warrior,” Kamilla Cardoso, who injured her leg late in the 2nd quarter. Cardoso carded 22 points and 11 rebounds to help the deep South Carolina squad race away from the Wolfpack in the third quarter. Ashlyn Watkins added 8 points but an incredible 20 boards, and PaoPao joined her sharp-shooting sophomore guard, Raven Johnson, in an aerial assault from behind the arc, combining to go 5 for 10 on the night. Raven left later with an apparent injury and will be monitored.


Half-time adjustments


The game was close at half, 32-21, in favor of Carolina. But the half-time break allowed PaoPao and her team to reassess. In fact coach Dawn Staley was impressed with PaoPao and Watkins and their efforts at the break.


“[B]efore we went into the locker room to talk to them, they had things squared away. They’re like that.”


Imagine your club already discussing what they needed to fix BEFORE the coaches came in to talk tactics! “We did a much better job than probably the last two games we had in running people off the 3-point line and making them play. Making them two us rather than three us,” Staley added.


Third Quarter Domination


Six South Carolina women scored in the third while holding NC State to six(!) total points! PaoPao and Johnson hit four of their threes. Cardoso had six points, Watkins netted four and Dayton, Ohio native Bree Hall and freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley (Better remember that name!) found themselves in the scoring book.



Twenty-nine points! The game was over then. What contributed to this onslaught? In fact, there was a time the club raced to a 17-1 run!


Ashlyn: “I think that’s what happens when you share the ball. Our team is NOT a selfish team.”


PaoPao: “Coach allows us to play free and play with each other, and just be able to make adjustments mid game…That’s who we are.”


Staley: “[I]t wasn’t magic. It was just simple basketball. And [we] basically stopped dribbling – more passing, more ball movement. And then we started getting stops and we got easy buckets.“


All three mentioned how they also changed how they defended ball screens and began to pressure their ball handlers. “[W]e got them to play a little bit outside their comfort zone.”

Staley and Hall

Coach Staley and Dayton native, Bree Hall.    Kirby Lee, USA Today, Reuters

Iowa Looms


The final stop on this undefeated run for South Carolina is the Iowa and Caitlin Clark train. Staley can run nine women at about 15 minutes a game at Iowa. If they can wear down Clark and shut down the triples, South Carolina can avenge their semifinal loss last year to the Hawkeyes and raise the championship trophy again for the second time in three years.


And for PaoPao, that would be a crowning achievement for the California native. “We just love being out there with each other,” she added. 


I am a math teacher in SW Ohio. Born and raised in NE Ohio, I am married with four sons who keep the flame burning for all things Cleveland. I cover soccer, betting, football and anything that focuses on the human side of sports.

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