Cardinal Newman grad wins national title at USC

By Thomas Grant Jr.

A Northeast graduate became a part of college basketball history Sunday afternoon.

Center Ashley Watkins of Cardinal Newman helped the University of South Carolina complete an undefeated championship season. The top-ranked Gamecocks defeated Iowa 87-75 to win the NCAA Tournament for the third time in seven years.

At 38-0, South Carolina was the 10th team and first since UConn in 2016 to finish with an undefeated record. They were honored Monday at a ceremony at the University of South Carolina.

Watkins played a major role as a backup center for All-American Kamilla Cardoso. Against North Carolina State in the semifinal, she had a career-high 20 points and eight points in relief of an injured Cardoso.

In the championship game against Iowa, Watkins scored three points, grabbed five rebounds and had two steals on defense. She was part of a Gamecocks’ bench that outscored the Lady Hawkeyes 37-0.

Defensively, South Carolina held Iowa to 39 percent from both the field and 3-point range. Player of the Year Caitlin Clark scored a game-high 30 points but was held to 12 points after the first quarter.

Watkins started nine games this season, leading the team in blocked shots (91) and was third in steals (48). For the season, she shot 55 percent from the field, averaged 9.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

Photo by South Carolina Athletics –  University of South Carolina cneter Ashley Watkins during the net-cutting ceremony following the 85-75 win over Iowa Sunday in Cleveland.

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