Women’s pregame: Gamecocks prep for another Charleston challenge

dcloninger@thestate.comNovember 13, 2013 

University of South Carolina forward Aleighsa Welch (24) goes for a loose ball with Louisiana Tech forward Savanna Langston (33) the first half of action Sunday at Colonial Life Arena.

TRACY GLANTZ — tglantz@thestate.com

South Carolina, newly risen to No. 21 in the country, has won each of its first two games with ease. With Thursday’s opponent, College of Charleston, coming to town with a 1-1 record, the chances for the Gamecocks (2-0) to rout a third consecutive opponent seem strong.

Not so fast.

While USC whipped Louisiana Tech in its last game, the Lady Techsters unveiled a plan to stymie the Gamecocks that future opponents doubtless will use. Tech began the game in a zone defense and USC fell right into the trap; the Gamecocks knocked down a couple of early 3-pointers, got confident that they would be there all night, and subsequently missed a lot more than they made as they struggled to get back to what they want to do.

That’s work the ball inside to bigs Aleighsa Welch, Elem Ibiam and freshman Alaina Coates, who is off to a fast start. USC got away from that in the first half and had to get it adjusted at halftime.

“I just felt like we hit a couple of shots, and it was fool’s gold after that,” coach Dawn Staley said. “We still wanted to pound the ball inside, although they were collapsing and took the air out of the ball.”

Even with the inside attack back online, Tech began using its height to surround the bigs every time there was an entry pass. It led to more missed layups and another blinking red light for how to counter the Gamecocks.

Charleston has 6-foot-5 center Mikaela Hopkins to throw at USC, along with a pair of 6-2 posts, Jacqueline Luna-Castro and Deidre Ramer. It’s a good chance the Cougars will try the same approach as Tech.

USC plans to be ready.

“Charleston Southern, they played us mostly man the whole game,” guard Tiffany Mitchell said of the zone. “It was a different look for us at the beginning.”

Now that they’ve seen a few looks, perhaps they’ll be ready for potential trouble.

COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON (1-1) at NO. 21 SOUTH CAROLINA (2-0)

When: 8 p.m. Thursday

Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia

TV: Fox Sports South/Fox Sports Carolinas

Tickets: Available at the box office

College of Charleston’s probable starters: G Alyssa Frye 5-8 Sr. (17.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg); G Afreyea Tolbert 5-10 Sr. (12.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg); G Erin Hall 5-8 RJr. (9.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg); G Jillian Brown 5-6 Sr. (4.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg); C Deidre Ramer 6-2 Sr. (1.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg)

South Carolina’s probable starters: G Khadijah Sessions 5-8 So. (8.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg); G Asia Dozier 6-0 So. (5.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg); G Tiffany Mitchell 5-9 So. (11.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg); F Aleighsa Welch 6-0 Jr. (14.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg); C Elem Ibiam 6-4 Jr. (14.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg)

Next game: USC hosts Seton Hall at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Duckett signs

South Carolina head women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley announced that Kaydra Duckett (Columbia, S.C./Dreher) has signed a National Letter of Intent to attend the University and play for the Gamecocks. Duckett will have four years of eligibility beginning with the 2014-15 academic year.

“We watched Kaydra grow up over the past five years, and she is someone we’ve had our eye on for a long time,” Staley said. “She is a big, athletic guard who is probably strength-wise more college-ready than anyone by her ability to create her own shot. She has deep 3-point range and a competitive spirit like no other.”

A 5-foot-10 guard, Duckett is ranked 32nd in the nation and sixth at her position in the 2014 class, according to ESPN. The five-star recruit is a two-time all-state selection (2011, 2012). She earned MVP honors at the 2012 state tournament as a sophomore, helping her team to the 3A championship. In 2012-13, Duckett averaged 17.5 points, 2.3 assists and 3.4 steals.

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