South Carolina women's basketball: Tessa Johnson reflects on the championship (2024)

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Freshman Tessa Johnson was the unexpected star of South Carolina’s championship game win over Iowa, scoring a career-high 19 points.

It was the culmination of a whirlwind postseason in which Johnson went from a little-known role player to a full-fledged superstar and hometown hero.

“It’s been really cool because just the support that I have, not only here but like everyone at home,” Johnson said. “I found out that they had watched parties for me at the St. Michael’s cinema. That’s our movie theater in my hometown. And my coaches and then the school, my brother told me that the school did a little something for me. And just the fact like that I have so much support around me. I am very blessed and appreciative of that.”

Johnson made 7-11 shots, beginning with a short jumper in the first quarter. As she made shot after shot, her phone began to blow up before the game was even over.

“When I look back at my phone, I saw messages as I was playing. They were like, I’m so excited, you’re doing so well, or your team is doing so well,” Johnson said. “Or they would say something about the game. So I think that was really funny. One that surprised me. I don’t know. I think there’s a bunch of them. I heard a lot of stuff from the support from back home. My parents, my grandparents are getting texts from people they haven’t heard of for a long time. And just all of it I think all of it is really cool. And not necessarily surprising, but surprising.”

It was certainly surprising to get a shout-out from LeBron James, who was on social media while watching the game.

Tessa Johnson cooking!! 👩🏽‍🍳

— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 7, 2024

It was a perfect ending for Johnson. From home, she watched South Carolina lose to Iowa in the 2023 Final Four and vowed things would have been different if she had been on the floor. Johnson knew her three-point shooting would have made a difference, but she downplayed the difference she made.

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“I was moreso thinking like if I was on that team I could do anything, I could to help them, not necessarily win, but definitely help them,” Johnson said. “But like digesting, it’s just seeing, like reflecting back on the beginning of the season individually and as a team, it’s really cool to see because we grew a lot from our expectations, personally, and just as the team we grew a ton. I think the coolest piece is that no one really was expecting anything because of how new we were and how young we were as a team. So the fact that we gelled together so well off the court, which helped us on the court, like that’s really cool.”

Johnson didn’t find her stride immediately the way fellow freshman MiLaysia Fulwiley did. It took her a while to figure out the college game and then SEC play, but once she found her footing Johnson excelled.

“Coming in as a freshman, obviously it’s a little scary, just because I’m leaving my family, I’m coming into a whole new chapter of my life. I think the fact that we did emphasize that, like, I’m really big with relationships so that helped me a lot just off the court. It really helped me on the court because I was able to trust my teammates and build a relationship with each person individually. So that was a blessing to me, honestly. I got lucky, we gelled very easily. I didn’t really have any expectations, but that was this team. I love this team.”

Johnson’s focus now turns to the offseason, and it’s back to the basics. There was so much new information to take in this season that she lost sight of the fundamentals.

“I’m gonna have my coaches’ meetings. I’m gonna talk to my dad, because he’s been my trainer my whole life,” she said. “And then we’ll figure it out from there. But like looking back personally, I definitely want to work on like my ball handling, like fundamentals that I used to work on, and then I kind of stopped because I don’t know why I stopped to be honest, but just fundamentals right now. But I’ll figure everything out when I have my coaches’ meetings.”

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South Carolina women's basketball: Tessa Johnson reflects on the championship (2024)


When did South Carolina women's basketball win the national championship? ›

The South Carolina Gameco*cks women's basketball team represents the University of South Carolina and competes in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Under current head coach Dawn Staley, the Gameco*cks have been one of the top programs in the country, winning the NCAA Championship in 2017, 2022, and 2024.

Who won the women's basketball championship in 2024? ›

South Carolina beat Iowa in the 2024 NCAA women's basketball national championship to cap off an undefeated season. Watch the cinematic recap of the historic title game here.

Who is the NCAA women's basketball champions? ›

What number is Tessa Johnson? ›

Tessa Johnson
No. 5 – South Carolina Gameco*cks
Listed height6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Career information
High schoolSt. Michael-Albertville (St. Michael, Minnesota)
CollegeSouth Carolina (2023–present)
8 more rows

How many times has South Carolina women's basketball won national championship? ›

South Carolina has won the national championship twice. The Gameco*cks won their first title in 2017, beating the Mississippi State Bulldogs, 67-55. They then captured their second national championship in 2022 by topping the Connecticut Huskies, 64-49.

Is Kim Mulkey currently married? ›

Has Caitlin Clark won a national championship? ›

Clark leaves college without a title, having lost in the championship game these past two seasons. South Carolina forced her into 10 for 28 shooting. She finished with 30 points.

Who is the all time wins coach in women's basketball? ›

Tara VanDerveer is the winningest college basketball coach of all time. To give you an idea of the kind of rarified air VanDerveer is breathing: she's one of only nine NCAA Women's Basketball coaches to win more than 900 games. She's one of only ten NCAA Men's or Women's coaches to win more than 1000 games.

What were the ratings for the women's basketball final? ›

The game peaked at 24 million viewers, ESPN said, and was the most-watched NCAA women's college basketball game since 1992. Viewership jumped 89% from last year's women's championship and 285% from 2022, according to ESPN.

Which women's college basketball coach has the most championships? ›

Who are the winningest NCAA women's basketball coaches?
Apr 9, 2024

Who is number 1 in women's NCAA? ›

Women's College Basketball Rankings
1SC (35)875
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How many people watched Iowa vs South Carolina? ›

South Carolina's win over Iowa was seen by an astonishing 18.9 million viewers and peaked at 24.1 million. (Initial ratings said 18.7 million viewers.)

How much does Dawn Staley make? ›

Salaries for the 2024 women's Final Four head coaches:

South Carolina — Dawn Staley, $3.1 million.

Where is Tessa Johnson going to college? ›

In her first year at the University of South Carolina, Johnson helped the Gameco*cks play an undefeated season. But just last year, she led the St. Michael-Albertville high school girls basketball team to victory in the state championship game.

How tall is Tessa Johnson? ›

The 5-foot-11 senior shooting guard had led the Knights to a 23-3 record and the No.

Has Dawn Staley won a national championship as a coach? ›

As a revered player and coach with three national championships, Dawn Staley has easily conquered the college basketball world.

Who won 1986 Georgia vs South Carolina? ›

Game results
No.DateWinning team
40September 28, 1985Georgia
41September 27, 1986Georgia
42September 26, 1987Georgia
43September 24, 1988# 14 South Carolina
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Has Carolina ever won a championship? ›

Carolina advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 2002, where they were defeated by the Detroit Red Wings. The Hurricanes won the 2006 Stanley Cup over the Edmonton Oilers, giving the state of North Carolina its first major professional sports championship and its only major championship as of 2022–23.


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