South Carolina dominated Morgan State on Wednesday night, but did so with a different starting lineup than previous games.

Both Kamilla Cardoso and Raven Johnson started from the bench in favor of Sakima Walker (in place of Cardoso) and freshman guard Tessa Johnson (in place of Raven Johnson).

Following the game, head coach Dawn Staley gave insight into the decision, noting that both had broken a team rule.

“They broke a team rule. They took it on the chin, we kept it moving, we’re good,” she said. “Nothing long-lasting.”

Ultimately, Staley said she “liked” putting out a different starting lineup, as it allowed for some different looks. Tessa Johnson finished with 16 points, while both Johnson and Cardoso finished in double-digits off the bench.

“I think we gained some valuable minutes, valuable instances for, like a Tessa,” Staley said. “Tessa is right there. She just needs more opportunities to play, and it gave her an opportunity to play. [Te-Hina Paopao] playing the point just solely, I thought she did a great job running the team, keeping it simple. And they were able to just bank some threes and open the floor up for us.”

The revenge tour continues for Raven Johnson and South Carolina.

After knocking off two top-20 opponents in back-to-back games last week and taking over the No. 1 ranking from LSU, South Carolina dismantled Clemson 109-40 on Thursday. Gamecocks freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley was once again a walking highlight reel, while sophomore Raven Johnson put on a clinic with six points, 17 assists, eight rebounds and five steals.

Johnson joined some elite company with that performance. The guard is just the third Division I player in the last five seasons to register five points, five rebounds, five steals and 15 assists against a Power Five team, joining Courtney Vandersloot and Chelsea Gray.

Her 17 assists are also the second-most in a game in South Carolina history, and the most by any SEC player since 2005, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

“Going off from last season, the Final Four game, after we lost — the whole season I feel like everybody was riding our coattails, just hyping us up. As soon as we lost, we got all these hate comments,” Johnson said after the Clemson win. “I got bashed from a viral video that went so viral. People don’t know behind the scenes how I felt and what I went through. I think that put fuel to the fire.”

The viral video in question is of Iowa star Caitlin Clark waving off Johnson, refusing to defend her from the 3-point line during the teams’ matchup in the 2023 Final Four. Johnson went 3-for-6 from deep in South Carolina’s 77-73 loss to Iowa, and has since used that moment as fuel.

“I said this was a revenge season and I got something for everybody, every team that comes up,” Johnson said. “So I think that was the best thing that ever happened to me, and God does things for a reason. So maybe I needed that. But I’ll say this team, we’re coming for a lot. So it’s definitely revenge season.”

South Carolina basketball has a new look for the 2023-24 season.

The Gamecocks graduated all five of their starters, including the quartet often dubbed “The Freshies.” WNBA Rookie of the Year Aliyah Boston, alongside Zia Cooke and Brea Beal, started in nearly every game since their freshman seasons, and they leave big holes to fill in their absence.

Still, head coach Dawn Staley is excited for the next group to step into the starting roles.

“It’s a totally new starting five starting from scratch, so I’m excited,” she said. “I’m excited to see how they come out and play, and what they can do when they’re put under that pressure.”

Leading the new starting five are senior center Kamilla Cardoso and junior Raven Johnson. The Gamecocks also added two key transfers in the offseason in Te-Hina Paopao and Sakima Walker.

Young talent, including Chloe Kitts and Ashlyn Watkins, also could factor in, as both have shown promise during preseason. Either way, Cardoso has been tasked with becoming a bigger leader on the team.

“Kamilla has to step into the role of being our dominant post on the inside,” Staley said. “She’s very very unselfish, and at times, much like Aliyah, she’ll pass out to people who shoot half her field goal percentage, and you can’t do that. You have to bet on yourself sometimes … We want Kamilla to be a leader.”

South Carolina sophomore Raven Johnson is using her viral Final Four moment with Iowa star Caitlin Clark as fuel heading into the season.

During the Gamecocks’ national semifinals loss to the Hawkeyes, Clark waved off Johnson as the South Carolina guard dribbled behind the 3-point line. With the gesture, Clark seemed to say that defending Johnson wasn’t worth the trouble; Johnson shot 24.1% from beyond the arc in her freshman season.

The moment went viral, and Johnson has used it to fire herself up ahead of her second season with the Gamecocks.

Speaking Thursday at a preseason practice, Johnson noted that she has leaned on head coach Dawn Staley and her teammates to help her following the loss and that play. She also noted that everything “happens for a reason.”

“Honestly I don’t think a lot of people could handle that,” she said. “It did go viral, but I’m glad that I have people around me such as Coach Staley, my teammates and just resources that Coach Staley brings around us that helped me. I think that, you know, it happens for a reason. I always go to God and I say things happen for a reason.

“Maybe I needed that to happen to me. I definitely will take that as fuel to the fire. It just tells me I need to get in the gym, put up some shots, go get my shot better.”

And the Gamecocks are ready to prove themselves as contenders. Without Aliyah Boston, Zia Cooke, Bria Beal and Victaria Saxton for the first time in four years, it could be tough to get back to the same level, but Staley isn’t worried.

“Obviously, they were mainstays for the last four years, and to not have them is definitely a big void,” Staley said, noting that this team is finding its own identity. “But this crew is stepping up. They’re starting to figure some things out.”

Johnson, one of six returners for South Carolina, agreed with Staley’s assessment.

“I’d say our identity is we’re a scrappy, young group,” Johnson said. “We’re so scrappy. I think that everybody on this team wants to win. … I’d say we’re a scrappy, young transition team.”

She also called this season her “revenge tour.”

“Revenge tour, to me, it’s like an apology to myself from last year because I know I could have done better. We had high expectations,” Johnson said. “To win the national championship. And we didn’t get that expectation. So this year, like I said, it’s fuel to the fire, and it’s a revenge tour to get back to that point and to win the national championship.”

LSU star Angel Reese leads the eight players selected for the Team USA roster for the 2023 Women’s AmeriCup.

“DELAYED BUT NOT DENIED. THANK YOU GOD,” Reese wrote on Twitter in celebration of her selection.

A leader for LSU’s 2023 national champion squad, Reese takes another step in her career on the international stage. She previously had been a finalist for Team USA’s youth teams, as she outlined on her Twitter account, but made the cut this time around.


Reese is joined by a bevy of other college stars for the tournament, which is held every two years and features teams from 10 different countries in North America, South America and the Caribbean. Team USA has won the AmeriCup four times, including at the last two tournaments in 2019 and 2021.

South Carolina’s Raven Johnson, Tennessee’s Rickea Jackson and Jewel Spear, UCLA’s Lauren Betts and Charisma Osborne, USC’s Rayah Marshall and Michigan’s Laila Phelia also made the squad. An additional five finalists were selected for training camp – Texas A&M’s Janiah Barker, Illinois’ Makira Cook, Columbia’s Abbey Hsu, Oregon’s Chance Gray and LSU’s Aneesah Morrow – with the 12-person roster to be announced before the team heads to the AmeriCup in July in Mexico.

As part of Group A, the U.S. will face Argentina, Brazil, Cuba and Venezuela. They will open up group play against Venezuela on July 1.

DALLAS — The Iowa Hawkeyes had to be perfect.

There was no wiggle room on the defensive game plan. No margin of error at any position. No opportunities to be taken for granted.

To beat South Carolina, the undefeated defending national champions, Iowa would have had to play an unprecedented 40 minutes.

So, that’s what they did.

When the buzzer sounded in the second Final Four game on Friday night in Dallas, the scoreboard read Iowa 77, South Carolina 73. After the basketball world watched South Carolina win 42 consecutive games, Iowa went to Dallas and beat the unbeatable team.

“Probably everybody in America picked South Carolina, deservedly so,” Caitlin Clark said. “They’ve been ranked No. 1 all year. They’ve won 42 straight basketball games. Why wouldn’t you pick them? But at the same time, the people in our locker room believed in us. That’s all you need is a belief in one another, a confidence in one another.”

It may have started with belief, but the Hawkeyes did need more. And they got it from up and down their lineup to earn a spot in Sunday’s national championship game against LSU, Iowa’s first appearance there in program history.

It’s hard to look at South Carolina and see weakness. Dawn Staley just took home Coach of the Year honors. Aliyah Boston is the Defensive Player of the Year, and if she decides to declare, Boston will almost certainly be the No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft. Zia Cooke is an All-American, Raven Johnson was the No. 2 player in her recruiting class, and coming off the bench, the Gamecocks have players who could be starting.

To look at South Carolina is to see dominance. But when Iowa watched game film to prepare for the Final Four matchup, that’s not what they saw.

They saw vulnerabilities that they could capitalize on.

“We feel like we can beat anyone in the country, and so we didn’t need to see a whole lot of film to think that,” Kate Martin said. “But after watching that film, everybody has flaws. Nobody is perfect. They’ve won 42 games in a row, but everybody messes up, and we did a good job of exposing that.”

The Hawkeyes didn’t need to see the film to know they could beat South Carolina, but it gave them more than the confidence they already had. It gave them a blueprint.

One game in particular dominated their film sessions: a Nov. 29 contest where UCLA stuck with South Carolina before falling 73-64. The Bruins packed the paint and sagged off the South Carolina guards, daring them to shoot. In that game, the Gamecocks went 1-for-14 from beyond the arc. Against Iowa, they were 4-for-20. If there was a weakness in the impenetrable force that is South Carolina, there it was.

“Kudos to UCLA for giving us some ideas,” Martin joked.

It wasn’t an exact replica, though. More like a jumping-off point.

“We played a similar style, but we upped it a little bit more, packed the paint a little bit more, and sagged off even more,” sophomore center Addison O’Grady said.

The Hawkeyes were committed to their game plan from the jump to the final buzzer. They sagged off of Raven Johnson, who stepped up and made three 3-pointers. Even when her shot started to fall, the approach stayed the same.

“I loved our game plan,” Clark said. “We were going to live with them making 3s. I thought Johnson came through and made some tough 3s in situations where they needed it, but we never got discouraged.”

The Hawkeyes knew they could afford to give up a few 3-pointers. Because when it’s offense vs. offense, they are going to win. Iowa leads the country with 87.6 points per game, and in a shootout, that matters.

“We just knew we had better offense, which really helped us,” Martin said.

That offense, of course, starts with Clark. She finished with 41 points and eight assists, and in the fourth quarter, Clark assisted on or scored every Iowa point.

As for the defense, that starts with Gabbie Marshall.

The guard didn’t score a single point against South Carolina, but her presence was felt.

Iowa's Gabbie Marshall had the tough assignment of guarding South Carolina's Zia Cooke. (C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

When Georgia was set to take on Iowa in the second round, Bulldogs coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson referred to Marshall as the player with the “pretty eyes.” They may be pretty, but if Marshall is guarding you, her eyes are menacing, too.

There’s nothing quite like watching Marshall defend, Martin says. The senior set the tone for Iowa on Friday as she matched up with Cooke, South Carolina’s star guard. Cooke had 18 points in the first half, but was held to six in the second. And even when Cooke was scoring, Marshall was making a defensive impact.

In the locker room following her team’s victory, Martin marveled at Marshall’s intensity. When she makes a deflection and starts clapping her hands in excitement, the Hawkeyes feel a jolt of energy.

In practice, Marshall is the same way. So when game day comes around, Martin and company are happy she’s guarding the opposition.

“She gets in this zone, and it’s honestly kind of terrifying,” Martin said with a laugh. “She’s just got this look in her eyes, and she’s moving really hard. She really set the tone for us defensively out of the gate.

“Gabbie did not come to play around.”

But even with the perfect defensive game plan, a stopper like Marshall and a scorer like Clark, it was still a battle, particularly in the paint.

South Carolina outrebounded Iowa 49-25, and the Gamecocks had one more offensive rebound than Iowa had total. Martin recalls boxing out on multiple occasions only to have 6-foot-7 Kamilla Cardoso grab the ball from over her head. But that was something they were ready for, and Iowa battled through. South Carolina was always going to be bigger and stronger. They were always going to have Boston, Cardoso and Victaria Saxon. Nothing Iowa did could change that.

But they could change the outcome — by buying into the plan Lisa Bluder laid out, and by playing it to near perfection.

Because, like Martin said, no one is perfect. But on Friday, Iowa was just close enough.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

South Carolina freshman Raven Johnson is out for the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury in the team’s win over South Dakota.

The nature of the injury was not specified, nor was the timetable for her recovery. The school simply updated Johnson’s status, calling it a “left knee injury.”

She exited the game against South Dakota with 3:57 to go in the first quarter on Friday after her left leg bent awkwardly as she cut to the basket.

“God allows things to happen for a reason,” Johnson said in a statement Tuesday morning. “I trust in Him, and I know He has my back. This is a minor setback for a major comeback.

“You will see Raven ‘Hollywood’ Johnson again. The comeback is always stronger than the setback!”

Head coach Dawn Staley also issued a statement, saying she is “heartbroken” for Johnson.

“Everyone could see what she added to our basketball team this year, and a lot of that are the intangibles that will also guide her through the recovery process,” she said. “Her tenacity and competitiveness will be put to use in a different way than she had planned this year, but they will sustain her, as will the support of her teammates and our coaching and medical staffs.”

Johnson, ranked the No. 1 point guard in the country and the No. 2 overall player of 2021, figured to be a major factor in the Gamecocks’ lineup this season. The Naismith and WBCA High School Player of the Year, she had come off the bench in each of the team’s first two games, recording eight minutes in the team’s win over No. 5 NC State.

South Carolina is set to face off against Clemson on Wednesday in its home opener at 7 p.m. ET.