SEATTLE (AP) — Gone were the jitters and apprehension from two days earlier when it was fair to question if South Carolina deserved a No. 1 seed.
The Gamecocks left no doubt Tuesday night leaving Oregon State bruised and erasing all those memories of being upset in the second round a year ago.
"We knew from the get go we wanted to be aggressive and not back down to their size," South Carolina's Aleighsa Welch said. "What we wanted to emphasize was to go right through them. Not try and go around them or try to go over the top but go right through them, through their chest. I think it paid off."
Welch had 21 points and 11 rebounds, Tiffany Mitchell scored all 20 of her points in the second half and grabbed 10 rebounds, and top-seeded South Carolina used its size and athleticism to overwhelm No. 9 seed Oregon State 78-69.
A year after getting upset by a 12 seed in the second-round of the tournament, the Gamecocks are headed to the Sweet 16 for the second time in three years under coach Dawn Staley. South Carolina (29-4) will face No. 4 seed North Carolina in the Stanford Region semifinals on Sunday. The Gamecocks lost to the Tar Heels 74-66 in December.
"This is a matchup we wanted to see later on in the season," Welch said.
But that meeting against the Tar Heels will come on Stanford's home court with a potential meeting coming against the Cardinal in the regional final. Staley didn't hide her displeasure with possibly having to play Stanford on its home floor.
"I think it (stinks). I do," Staley said. "The people out at Stanford appreciate good basketball. I know that because we have played out there on a number of occasions but when it's the Final Four at stake I think it should be at neutral sites."
South Carolina slogged through its first-round victory over Cal State Northridge, letting the No. 16 seed hang around for longer than anyone anticipated.
That sluggishness was replaced with an aggressiveness that Oregon State couldn't match.
Welch's quickness around the rim had the Beavers flustered. Whether she was following up misses or getting open for her own shot, Oregon State struggled to slow the junior forward. Welch made 8 of 11 shots and had six offensive rebounds.