**Story by Jeff Owens/Photo by South Carolina Media Relations**
STOCKTON, Calif. — Quinnipiac University had already produced two upsets in the NCAA Women's Tournament, writing a Cinderella story that had garnered the small Connecticut school national attention.
None of that mattered to South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley and her players. They had a job to do, a mission to accomplish, and they executed it to near perfection Saturday in the Sweet 16 at Stockton Arena.
The No. 4 Gamecocks completely dismantled Quinnipiac, beating the Bobcats 100-58 to advance to the regional final and Elite Eight on Monday.
"We're going to play the way that we know how to play. No matter who is in front of us, we have to play hard. We have to come ready to play no matter who it is," said Kaela Davis, who led South Carolina with 28 points. "We are going to come out and play our game and play hard."
"When we come out, we play every team the same. Doesn't matter what name is on the jersey," said Allisha Gray, who added 19 points. "Obviously they had a good run, but we still got a mission to complete and that's to make it to the Final Four National Championship."
The Gamecocks started the game with a 16-0 run and wasted no time running away from the Bobcats. With Davis sinking 3s and forward A'Ja Wilson dominating inside, they led 45-27 at the half and 76-44 after three quarters.
When Mikiah Herbert-Harrigan converted a layup with 20 seconds remaining, the Gamecocks (30-4) reached the century mark for the first time this season.
Quinnipiac made the Sweet 16 with outstanding 3-point shooting and a high assist-to-points ratio, but the Gamecocks were having none of that, shutting the Bobcats down early with relentless perimeter defense and by dominating the boards. South Carolina out-rebounded Quinnipiac 35-18 and forced 17 turnovers. The Bobcats shot just 43 percent from the field to South Carolina's 61 percent. The Gamecocks scored 38 of their 100 points in the paint and 20 off turnovers.
"I think our biggest thing was obviously pressuring outside the three-point line," Davis said. "I've honestly never seen a team that could shoot the ball as well as them. So our biggest thing was just making them put the ball on the floor, you know, and if we had to give up a two, we'd much rather give up a two rather than a three."
"I was incredibly proud of our team to be able to lock in to the game plan, and execute it," said Staley, whose team won its eighth straight game.
Quinnipiac coach Tricia Fabbri said her team was overwhelmed from the start.
"They were very good all day long," she said. "We knew we would have our hands full. I knew they were really good defensively. They disrupted us all day long. South Carolina lived up to their No. 1 seed."
Davis led South Carolina with 28 points, including 5-of-6 from 3-point range. Wilson scored 24 on 7-of-9 shooting and 10-for-10 from the free throw line. Allisha Gray added 19 points and eight rebounds.
The Gamecocks hit 10 of 16 shots from 3-point range, including 8 of 11 in the second half.
"Those 3s were daggers. It felt like they shot 100 percent from three-point range," Quinnipiac's Adly Martucci said.
The Gamecock bench finished off the Bobcats, outscoring them 24-14 in the fourth quarter behind nine points from Doniyah Cliney and six by senior Tiffany Davis.
South Carolina led 45-27 at the half after starting the game with a 16-0 run. Quinnipiac, which upset Marquette and Miami with strong 3-point shooting, could barely get a shot off against SC's smothering defense. The Bobcats did not score until Jen Fay hit two free throws with 2:51 remaining in the first quarter.
"Their size, speed and height was disruptive to us," Fabbri said. "At one point, I said, 'Are we going to score?'"
After a timeout with 4:58 left in the half, SC went on a 6-0 run with a steal and layup by Wilson and two buckets by Gray to go up 37-14. South Carolina shot 46.7 percent from the field in the first half to 40 percent for Quinnipiac.
The Gamecocks started the second half on an 11-2 run to pull away and put the game out of reach.
South Carolina will play the winner between Florida State and Oregon State in the regional final at 9 p.m. ET Monday for a chance to advance to the Final Four in Dallas.
Staley said her team must now focus on the next game, regardless of who the opponent is or what is at stake.
"For teams that have a goal of going to the Final Four and winning the National Championship, it is that step that, you know, can prevent you," Staley said. "... You can try to get ahead of yourself. I think for us, we just need to stay in character. We need to approach it much like we approached every game of the season. Although the stakes are a little bit higher. Just keep it as normal as possible."