Lady Gamecocks Rolling in to Big Time Match-up


It’s finally here – number 1 vs number 2, and both teams stayed strong and will enter on 20+ game winning streaks.  The Lady Gamecocks have already played some big games this season, but barring a Final Four or National Title game appearance, Monday night at UConn will be the biggest.  UConn is a national powerhouse, the defending National Champs, and their coach, Geno Auriemma just recently became the fastest coach ever to win 900 games.  However, heading into Monday night, it’s South Carolina (22-0, 10-0 SEC) that will be the nation’s number 1 ranked team.

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Coach Dawn Staley’s team will be playing their third road game in nine days, and the second straight against a ranked opponent.  They won in dominant, if not very spectacular, fashion at #22 Georgia on Thursday night, 58-35.  Defense and intensity have been staples of the program since Coach Dawn Staley took over a few years ago, but now thanks to an upgrade in recruiting, the talent to back up the relentless effort is here as well.  Depth, size, and balance now carry this team, with two of their three double figure scorers coming off the bench.  Reigning SEC Player of the Year Tiffany Mitchell paces the squad with just under 15ppg, while shooting 51% from the floor and 47% from three point range.  Alaina Coates is among the top scorers and rebounders in the SEC, despite coming off the bench, and is on her way to backing up her Freshman of the Year campaign last season with her second straight 6th Woman of the year award.

While a lot was made in the off-season of the highly rated recruiting class that came to Columbia this year, there is no shortage of leadership and experience on the Lady Gamecocks either.  Aleighsa Welch is a four year starter, and a former All-SEC selection, while center Elem Ibiam has been an integral part of the building of this program to the point it is at now.  Both seniors start and provide mental and physical toughness to this young team, having been through and succeeded in SEC battles for the past few years.  Then there is the freshman, A’ja Wilson the most heralded of course, but certainly not the only one making an impact on this team.  Scoring 37 points combined in the last two road games, lightning quick freshman guard Bianca Cuevas has emerged into a star in the making recently and provides more depth and explosiveness to this team.

There are five more players who average between 9 and 21 minutes, including starters Asia Dozier and Khadijah Sessions.  The relentless attack and waves of players that Dawn Staley can throw at her opponents have served to wear down teams this year, with USC usually winning the 2nd half as others tire.  Carolina is outscoring SEC foes by 10.7 points in the 2nd half through ten games this year.  Now comes the biggest test, a UConn team which is always filled with talent and rarely loses, let alone on their home floor.  The Lady Gamecocks have passed every test so far this season, but to step up into the Elite programs in the country and be considered a legitimate national title contender, they will need to show their worth on Monday, in the toughest environment in women’s basketball.