South Carolina added height during the offseason, but the Gamecocks didnt lose a millisecond in speed.
No. 22 USC bludgeoned Charleston Southern 99-29 in the season-opener for each team on Friday, overwhelming the Buccaneers with their transition game. Working inside defense from the tip, center Elem Ibiams four first-half blocks turned the Gamecocks galaxy of track stars loose for easy buckets, and once the panicked Bucs began firing 3-pointers in a desperate attempt to get back in the game, USC flexed its muscle.
Caroms after rebounds became basketballs in the hands of running Gamecocks, and the glass was punished with a barrage of layups. USC (1-0) led by 50 points with 15 minutes to play and the only questions after that were if any would be saved for a quick turnaround against Louisiana Tech on Sunday afternoon, and if USC would break 100 for the first time under coach Dawn Staley.
USC finished a point short of triple digits, but signs point to the team being ready for the Lady Techsters. USC never took its foot off the pedal, but Staley was able to constantly rotate and have everybody as fresh as possible for the next game.
I think we can keep the pace up all year, Ibiam said. Of course, we will have the days when were tired. We just have to keep uplifting each other every day in practice.
The Gamecocks wanted to play inside-out from the start, but there was no need to go outside, even after the Gamecocks had two turnovers and a shot blocked on their first three offensive chances. Khadijah Sessions strolled through a wide-open right side of the paint for USCs first points, and CSU (0-1) never got its offense on track.
CSU got the ball to 6-foot-2 junior Natasha Lebedeva, but her first two attempts were swatted by Ibiam and turned into fast-break points. The Bucs abandoned the strategy and tried to get back in the game from the perimeter, but nothing found the rim as USC flew to a 16-0 lead.
Erin Bratcher broke the drought with three made free throws after Alaina Coates fouled her on another long-range try. It was the last bit of good feeling CSU could muster.
The Gamecocks unceasingly scored, everybody wanting to get in on the action. As they did in the exhibition, bigs Coates, Ibiam and Aleighsa Welch led the assault, combining for 52 points. USC was again outstanding in the lane, outscoring the Bucs 70-6.
The transition game set up the rout. It seemed at times as if the Bucs were giving the ball to the Gamecocks. USC piled up 17 steals and had 40 points off 25 turnovers.
We want to get up and down the floor, Staley said. Were able to block shots. With the type of adjustments we have to make with our pressure, we cant pressure the ball as much as weve done in the past. Fortunately for us, weve got some big girls in the back that can block shots and lead to transition baskets.
Coates, as she did in the exhibition, scored 20 points. The freshman also had seven rebounds. Ibiam had 17 and Welch had 15, with Ibiam finishing with six rebounds and five blocks. Charleston Southern shot 18.5 percent from the field.
But the competition will get much harder. Staley wasnt grinning in the postgame interview, pointing out another rash of missed layups and saying that the Gamecocks wont be this frenetic all season. Seventy-point wins arent common, and neither is the work that goes into them.
Were not going to fool ourselves into thinking that this is the way its going to be, Staley said. We certainly do not want to put so much pressure on our defense to get stops. We have to create some. But until teams stop us, were going to try to pound the ball inside and push it down their throats as much as possible.
CHARLESTON SOUTHERN (0-1) | Lebedeva 0-7 0-0 0, Maximilien 0-4 0-0 0, Bratcher 2-5 2-3 8, Fowler 1-6 0-0 2, Mann 3-11 3-3 9, Karlsone 0-3 0-0 0, Long 0-1 0-0 0, Brown 2-2 0-0 4, Jarvis 1-5 0-0 3, Kirkpatrick 0-2 0-0 0, Lakes 0-1 0-0 0, Barnett 1-7 0-0 3. Totals 10-54 5-6 29.
SOUTH CAROLINA (1-0) | Welch 5-8 5-6 15, Dozier 1-3 2-2 4, Ibiam 7-7 3-5 17, Sessions 3-6 3-5 10, Mitchell 6-10 0-0 12, Farmer 0-0 0-0 0, Gaines 2-3 0-0 4, Montout 2-4 2-5 7, Davis 2-3 1-3 5, Morrison 0-0 0-0 0, Roy 2-6 0-0 5, Coates 9-14 2-2 20. Totals 39-64 18-28 99.
Halftime: South Carolina 52-13. 3-Point Goals: Charleston Southern 4-23 (Bratcher 2-5, Barnett 1-3, Jarvis 1-5, Lebedeva 0-1, Karlsone 0-1, Kirkpatrick 0-2, Fowler 0-2, Mann 0-4), South Carolina 3-6 (Sessions 1-1, Montout 1-1, Roy 1-4). Fouled Out: None. Rebounds: Charleston Southern 25 (Bratcher, Karlsone, Maximilien 3), South Carolina 46 (Welch 8). Assists: Charleston Southern 6 (Barnett, Bratcher, Brown, Fowler, Jarvis, Mann 1), South Carolina 25 (Roy 7). Total Fouls: Charleston Southern 19, South Carolina 9. Attendance: 5,120.
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