The stars, moon and everything else under the sun aligned in Colonial Life Arena Wednesday night. Over 8,000 rowdy fans packed CLA for a chance to see the Lady Gamecocks take vengeance from the Stanford Cardinal. Last spring, Stanford dismissed the Gamecocks from the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament. Those fans would be treated to a great basketball game, but would leave disappointed in the outcome.
Head coach Dawn Staley was poised to gain her 250th career win. She put together a game plan that would slow the high-powered Stanford offense to a crawl, keeping them 25 points below their season average. The Lady Cocks were clearly outmatched in the paint, as they were out-boarded all evening. But, their scrappy defensive effort kept the Cardinal off balance.
That defensive effort would force 18 uncharacteristic Stanford turnovers. That’s where the trouble began. The Gamecocks were largely unable to capitalize on those opportunities, recording only 11 points from those turnovers.
Down the line, poor shooting (especially late, from the free-throw line) would seal the Gamecock’s fate, shooting 28.2% from the field and 64% from the line. Had more of those shots fallen, it’s likely Stanford would have left Columbia with an embarrassing blow-out loss.
The Gamecock effort was led by Aleighsa Welch with 17 points. She was joined in double digits by Ieasia Walker who added 15.
We here at Garnet and Cocky don’t endorse the term “moral win”. That sounds like something teams say to justify a loss. But, we would be surprised to see the Lady Gamecocks (10-1) move anywhere but up in the polls. Many felt the Gamecocks (who came into the match-up undefeated) were underrated. They were ranked 21/17 respectively and trailed a laundry of 1 & 2 loss teams, mainly because they were untested. That is no longer the case. Even without a win, the Lady Gamecocks have proven they have the ability to compete at the highest level.
As for Dawn Staley, she shouldn’t have to wait too long to gain that 250th win. Her team takes the court Friday (Dec. 21st) versus the Lady Bulldogs from SC State.
Were you at the game Wednesday night? Give us your thoughts.