South Carolina Basketball: 3 thumbs up, 3 thumbs down from domination of UConn

South Carolina basketball dominated the UConn Huskies at Colonial Life Arena on Sunday despite playing shorthanded.
South Carolina basketball guard Te-Hina Paopao
South Carolina basketball guard Te-Hina Paopao / Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
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South Carolina Basketball vs. UConn Huskies
Thumbs Up 1: No Kamilla, No Problem

As almost any Gamecock fan knows, Kamilla Cardoso was unavailable this week as she played in Olympic qualifiers in Brazil. However, Carolina didn't miss a beat without their All-SEC center.

On Sunday against UConn, USC managed to win the rebounding battle 46-37 despite Cardoso's absence, and point guard Raven Johnson was the leader on the boards. "The Crockpot" snagged 12 missed shots, including 2 offensive rebounds that immediately resulted in 2nd chance points.

The starting forwards in the game were Chloe Kitts and Ashlyn Watkins (who have combined to start every game this season at power forward), and the duo were really good. Combining to shoot 14-23 from the field, Watkins and Kitts scored 29 points, brought down 13 rebounds, dished out 4 assists, and blocked 4 shots.

The only "deficiency" noticed without Cardoso came when Ashlyn Watkins was out of the game. UConn's Aaliyah Edwards had her best success without #2 on the floor as the Gamecocks didn't have the SEC's best two post defenders to throw at her in those moments.

South Carolina Basketball vs. UConn Huskies
Thumbs Up 2: Paopao!

While Raven Johnson handled the rebounding with Cardoso out, Te-Hina Paopao took care of the scoring. The nation's most impactful transfer this offseason exploded for 5 makes from behind the arc, and she shot 8-12 (5-7) for the game to finish with 21 points and lead the game in scoring.

Paopao scored 8 points in both the 1st quarter and the 2nd quarter, and some of the shots she made were heavily contested by UConn defenders. The 4th-year player was a steady source of offense for the Gamecocks while their points-per-game leader was out of the country.

South Carolina Basketball vs. UConn Huskies
Thumbs Up 3: Minutes Distribution

With just nine players available (and only 8 who have been part of the rotation), it is extremely difficult for a coach to have her team's minutes distributed relatively evenly. Yet, Dawn Staley pulled it off on Sunday.

6 Gamecocks played at least 20 minutes, 8 played at least 14, and no one played more than 31 minutes.

South Carolina basketball has had the luxury of being able to play this way most of the season. Zero Gamecocks average more than 28 minutes per game, and the team's NCAA Tournament run this March should be fueled by players who have fresher legs than the top players on most other teams.