The school with the toughest name to say continues to gain fame in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
No. 12 seed Quinnipiac seeks its third straight upset victory when it meets top seed South Carolina at 4 p.m. Saturday in a Sweet 16 clash in at 4 p.m. in Stockton, California.
“Quinnipiac doesn’t roll off your tongue initially,” coach Tricia Fabbri told reporters this week. “But, when you practice it, you get used to it. The more we keep winning, the easier it will be to say.”
The Bobcats (29-6) have reached the NCAA tournament three times in five years but never had a victory until beating Big East champion Marquette 68-65 on March 18. They followed with an 85-78 win over No. 4 seed Miami last Sunday.
It was Quinnipiac that blasted the University of Maine 90-44 in a Women’s National Invitation Tournament game in 2016.
South Carolina (29-4) will be missing one starter and it initially appeared another could be out as the Gamecocks prepared for the Bobcats.
No. 2 scorer and leading rebounder Alaina Coates is out for the season with an ankle injury. The senior center averaged 12.9 points and 10.7 rebounds.
Guard Allisah Gray, the Gamecocks’ No. 3 scorer (12.8 points), was carried off the court with a possible knee injury injury late in last Sunday’s 71-68 victory over No. 8 Arizona State.
But South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said Tuesday that she expects Gray to play.
“(She’s) much better than she was two days ago,” Staley said during a radio show. “We’re looking for her not to miss any action.”
South Carolina, a three-time SEC champion, is in the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive year. The Gamecocks advanced with a 90-40 first-round win over UNC Asheville and then topped Arizona State as leading scorer A’Ja Wilson hit a late jumper and two free throws for a 71-68 come-from-behind victory.
Wilson averages 17.7 points per game.
Quinnipiac, located in Hamden, Connecticut, and overshadowed by nearby women’s powerhouse Connecticut, earned an automatic berth with a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament championship and has a pair of 30-win seasons in recent years.
Leading scorer Jen Fay (10.4 points) missed the 2015-16 season with a torn ACL. Guard Adily Martucci is next with a 10.3 average.
The Bobcats have contributions from throughout the lineup, including a career-high 22-point effort from Morgan Manz against Miami, including a single-game career-best 6 of 8 from 3 point range.
Saturday’s winner faces either No. 2 seed Oregon State or No. 3 Florida State next Monday for a spot in the Final Four.