Resilient Gamecocks Women in SEC Final


With eight minutes left in the first half, things were not looking good the South Carolina women as LSU was solidly in command with an 11 point lead.  LSU was shooting lights out, and even when they weren’t the Gamecocks couldn’t seem to convert.  Even though they pulled within four of the Tigers going into halftime, it still didn’t feel that close at all.  LSU appeared to be using the same strategy Kentucky did just a week earlier and had all the answers for how to once again end the Gamecocks tournament earlier than expected.

But this South Carolina women’s team did not make it this far, did not finish the season 27-2 with a share of the SEC regular season title, did not have three of the first team all SEC team, without being able to compose themselves and find a way to get themselves back in the game.  And with just over four minutes into the second half, the Lady Gamecocks took their first lead of the game, then took total control the rest of the game.  The defense played superb, with energy brought from Olivia Gaines and SEC Player of the Year Tiffany Mitchell.  The offense shot over 75% in the second half, led by Tina Roy who had a career high 15 points, 12 of which were in that half.  Also they took control of the boards, finishing with a 36-25 advantage overall.  They were driven by Aleighsa Welch, who not only had 10 boards, but her 4 offensive rebounds helped her finish with most in Gamecocks history.

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South Carolina finished with a 74-54 victory, which seems all the more stunning considering where they stood 12 minutes into the game.  But it showed the patience, leadership, and talent on the team, and also showed even as successful as they are, Coach Dawn Staley was able and willing to adapt to whatever was needed to win the game.  That right there may be the part that propels them through the NCAA tournament and give them a real shot at the national title.  So many times in the game against UConn earlier in the season, they seemed content on playing it the way they always had, even if it wasn’t working.  Saturday, Coach Staley showed she is willing to be flexible and make changes to her lineup or system if that’s what’s needed to win.

The Gamecocks play Tennessee Sunday at 3:30pm for the SEC Championship.  The game is a rematch of just two weeks ago when South Carolina was able to hold off the Lady Vols in a close 71-66 game in which the home crowd definitely was an advantage.  Considering these two shared the regular season title, both teams will be pushing to win the overall SEC title.  Tennessee has won four of the last five tournament championships including last season, while South Carolina will be going for their first ever.  The game will be on ESPN.