Staley’s Gamecocks open with a rout

Gamecocks use runs to race past Phoenix

pobley@thestate.comNovember 9, 2012 

South Carolina Gamecocks forward Ashley Bruner (21) shoots over Arkansas Lady Razorbacks forward Quistelle Williams (24) during the first half of action Sunday against Arkansas.

TGLANTZ@THESTATE.COM

Charlotte Smith was well-versed in all things Dawn Staley before she brought her Elon women’s basketball team to USC on Friday night.

Smith and Staley played together for six seasons on the WNBA’s Charlotte Sting. After the Gamecocks dismantled Smith’s Phoenix during a 77-44, season-opening romp at Colonial Life Arena, she was succinct in her appraisal of USC.

“They definitely play just like she did,” Smith said. “Hard-nosed.”

USC’s starting lineup, which featured one of the team’s heralded five newcomers — guard Tiffany Mitchell — put points on the board in 12 of its first 13 trips down the court, racing out to a 21-5 lead.

“We thought we should use our speed to get easy buckets,” said senior guard Ieasia Walker, who finished with 13 points.” Their transition defense is one of their weak points, so that’s what we did when we came out at started the game.”

When Elon threatened to get back in the game, USC responded with a 9-2 spree for a 41-25 halftime lead.

“I thought we started pretty well just on both sides of the basketball,” Staley said. “When we started subbing, we lost a little bit of luster, because when we sub, we do have to play a different way.”

The second half was more of the same until Staley went to a youthful lineup, featuring four of her five newcomers, over the final nine minutes. Even then, Elon was held at arm’s length due to USC’s rebounding acumen.

“I thought we just tried to give them some experience,” Staley said of the younger lineup. “We could have subbed and made things look a little bit better, but they need the experience and we used that opportunity to give them that experience.

Finishing strong, USC didn’t allow an Elon basket over the game’s final five minutes.

USC outrebounded Elon 55-33, with 29 offensive rebounds. That advantage more than made up for the Gamecocks’ woeful shooting performance from beyond the 3-point line (0-for-14) and at the free throw line (15-of-30).

Inside the arc, USC shot 55.3 percent. Senior Ashley Bruner was vital in the paint, leading the team with 15 points.

“Ashley is one we’re very comfortable giving the ball because she’s pretty dynamic as far as her footwork,” Staley said. “She’s pretty savvy … and she’s not a selfish player. She’ll kick it out when necessary.”

Sophomore Aleighsa Welch and Mitchell each had nine points for USC. Sophomore Elem Ibiam had 11 rebounds, including six offensive boards. Freshman Asia Dozier added 10.

Shon Redmond led Elon with 10 points.

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BOX SCORE: USC vs. Elon

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