South Carolina women's basketball: The Payback - Raven Johnson gets her revenge

On3 imageby:Chris Wellbaum04/07/24

ChrisWellbaum

South Carolina basketball national championship postgame press Conference following win against Iowa

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Hey, you gotta payback (the big payback)/Revenge/I’m mad (the big payback)

  • James Brown, “The Payback”

Raven Johnson stood on the makeshift podium in the center of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. She was surrounded by her teammates with confetti all around. She had just finished a game where she went 1-11 and 0-4 from three, and it was one of the best games of her life. 

Johnson was handed a microphone to address the arena. The crowd, which was a sellout full of a mix of garnet and yellow and black, had dwindled to just garnet and black.

“The revenge tour is over!” Johnson crowed. The crowd roared. Her teammates screamed. Johnson grinned.

It is ironic that Johnson was vilified as an offensive liability last season for a game where scored 13 points on 5-11 shooting and hit 3-6 from three. On Sunday her shot wasn’t falling and she finished with just two points on the same number of shot, but nobody will question her ability.

But those two points said everything. With the first half winding down, Caitlin Clark was a little too casual with the ball near midcourt. Johnson swiped it and cruised in for a layup that gave South Carolina a three-point halftime lead. 

It was a sign of things to come. After an 18-point outburst in the first quarter, Johnson and Bree Hall spent the next 30 minutes refusing to give Clark enough room to breathe. They mirrored her every move, made every shot difficult, and didn’t give an inch.

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“Don’t let her score. I was ready for the moment,” Johnson said. “And I take defense very hard, like I take it to heart. I studied her moves, and I was ready. I had confidence this year. I was telling myself last year’s not going to happen again.”

Clark was wearing down, and that steal was the first sign she wouldn’t have the energy for any fourth-quarter heroics. She shot just 10-28 for the game and 2-7 in the fourth quarter.

“For Raven, I think it was psychologically helpful to be able to play Iowa and Caitlin, to just release,” Dawn Staley said. “As a player, you want to release certain things that have held you captive. And I do think the waving off in the Final Four last year held her captive, to where usually you just quietly do things and go about your business. Raven’s got the bullhorn saying this is revenge tour, this is this, this is that. Then for her to actually lock in and play Caitlin the way we needed her to play her, we knew she was going to get her points. We wanted her to get her points in an inefficient way. I look at the stat sheet, it’s beautiful. If she’s shooting 50 percent, we lose the basketball game.”

The revenge tour is over with the ultimate revenge, for both Johnson and the Gamecocks, and they get what they missed out on last season: an undefeated national championship.

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