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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (cuse.com) – The No. 14/15 Syracuse University women's basketball continues its historic season with an 80-72 victory against No. 3/2 South Carolina in the regional semifinals of the 2016 NCAA Tournament on Friday night. The Orange will keep dancing their way to history, as they advanced to the program's first regional final with the victory over the Gamecocks.
"We're super excited to still be playing. I thought our kids competed at a tremendously high level, " head coach Quentin Hillsman said. "Honestly, it was two things. I think the first thing was just really happy that we won the game, obviously, and that our team really, really trusted us and trusted our game plan."
Junior guard Alexis Peterson made history herself by breaking the program record for points in a NCAA Tournament game with 26 points. She broke her own record that she set against South Carolina last season.
The victory against South Carolina (33-2) matches the highest ranked opponent the Orange (28-7) have beaten in program history. Syracuse defeated No. 2/2 Connecticut, 62-59, on Jan. 2, 1996. It is the Orange's fifth win over a ranked opponent this season, another program record.
Syracuse came out ready to go with Peterson and redshirt junior guard Brittney Sykes knocking down shots, taking the early lead at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center. The Orange finished the first quarter with a 16-15 advantage.
South Carolina took its first lead of the game with 7:04 on the clock in the second quarter. The Gamecocks extended their lead to 13 points late in the second quarter after South Carolina's Tina Roy knocked down five 3-pointers. A triple from Peterson with seconds left on the clock brought the Orange back within 10 points, heading into the locker room down, 43-33.
Fighting for every point, the Orange brought it back within five points with 5:32 left on the clock in the third quarter, trailing 48-43. The teams traded points throughout the frame, finishing out the quarter, 56-50.
With 6:11 left on the clock, Peterson refused to be stopped, hitting a triple to knot the game up at 59-59. Trading shots, senior guard Brianna Butler sunk a 3-pointer and stole the lead for Syracuse for good, 66-65 with three minutes to play. Senior guard Cornelia Fondren made a huge block on the other end, transitioning to a lay-up from junior center Briana Day, securing the Orange's victory. Syracuse finished the game out by a score of 80-72, handing the Gamecocks their second and final loss of the season.
Day pulled down a team-high 13 rebounds. Butler contributed 18 points and Sykes tallied 17 points for the Orange in the momentous victory.
Syracuse will play the winner of No. 9/9 Ohio State and Tennessee on Sunday, March 27 at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Tipoff is set for 3:30 p.m. EST.