South Carolina Women's Basketball coach Dawn Staley secured her 500th career victory Sunday when Aliyah Boston and the top-seeded Gamecocks beat Mercer 79-53 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Boston had 20 points and 18 rebounds for South Carolina (23-4), which grabbed the lead for good when it closed the first half with a 16-5 run. Victaria Saxton also scored 20 points in the Hemisfair Region game at the Alamodome.
The Lady Gamecocks were national champs in 2017, when the Final Four was last played in Texas. They finished 32-1 last season, spent the final 10 weeks at No. 1. Staley was named AP coach of the year, but did not have a chance to win another title because the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to COVID-19.
Amoria Neal-Tysor had 15 points for Mercer (19-7). Jada Lewis added 14 points, and Shannon Titus finished with 12.
Staley is 328-102 in her 13 seasons at South Carolina, after going 172-80 in eight seasons at Temple. The SEC tournament champion Gamecocks are in their ninth consecutive NCAA tournament, winning in the first round each time.
It was Boston's 28th double-double in 60 career games. The All-American forward from the U.S. Virgin Islands had 15 points and 10 rebounds at break. She made a 3-pointer at the buzzer, which came right after Lewis hit a 3 to end an 11-0 run by the Gamecocks.
After being down 11 points in the first quarter, Mercer opened the second with a 15-4 run. They got even at 27-all on a long jumper by Neal-Tysor, prompting a timeout by Staley, not long after Neal-Tysor had a steal and a breakaway layup.
The No. 1 Lady Gamecocks will continue in the NCAA tournament against No. 8 Oregon State Beavers Tuesday at 7 p.m.