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NSU women in 1st round of NCAA face defending champs in South Carolina

The Spartans, the 16th seed, will make the trip to Columbia, S.C. and face overall top seed South Carolina in the opening round on Friday.

NORFOLK, Va. — The Norfolk State University women's basketball team didn't have to wait too long to know how they would face in the opening round of the 2023 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament. 

The Spartans, the 16th seed, will make the trip to Columbia, S.C. and face overall top seed South Carolina, in the opening round on Friday from Colonial Life Arena.

Norfolk State (26-6) reached the NCAA Tournament after winning its first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Women's Basketball Tournament on Saturday with a 56-52 victory against Howard. South Carolina (32-0) is the lone unbeaten team in the country and received the overall top seed after capturing the Southeastern Conference (SEC). 

"We are excited to have the opportunity to play against the best program in the country," Norfolk State head coach Larry Vickers said. "Our girls have worked hard this season and we are happy to continue playing. This has been a tremendous season and we look forward to playing the top team in the country." 

Norfolk State, the MEAC regular season and tournament champion, have lost just three times since the start of 2023.  

Vickers was named the conference Coach of the Year and Tournament's Outstanding Coach, while forward Kierra Wheeler was selected the Most Outstanding Player after averaging 16.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Camille Downs ranks fifth in the country in steals and steals per game as she was named the MEAC's Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season.  

The Spartans faced one SEC team this season, suffering a 90-32 loss to Alabama on December 18.  

South Carolina, the defending national champions, have rolled past opponents all season, and are 125-8 over the last four seasons. The Gamecocks played Hampton on November 27, defeating the Pirates 85-38. USC is averaging 81.4 points and holding opponents to 51.1 points.

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