Women’s pregame: Pirates will be tall test for Gamecocks

But Mitchell knows tendencies of an ex-teammate

dcloninger@thestate.comNovember 17, 2013 

Joined by athletic director Ray Tanner, USC coach Dawn Staley is awarded The Order of The Palmetto by Governor Nikki Haley.

KIM KIM FOSTER-TOBIN — kkfoster@thestate.com

Some saw that 70-point thrashing in the season-opener and figured that No. 21 South Carolina would cruise through its non-conference schedule.

Clemson? Southern Cal? North Carolina? Bring ’em on.

It’s never that easy.

College of Charleston, despite losing handily to the Gamecocks on Thursday, certainly raised eyebrows with a lights-out exhibition during that game’s first 10 minutes.

“They came out with a lot more energy,” coach Dawn Staley said. “Until (the Gamecocks) can get their heads knocked in a few times, it took that to kind of jolt them into really getting down and dirty. I was really pleased with how they responded.”

USC has been challenged in its two games after the opener, first against a zone defense and then having to come back when it seemed like the opponent wouldn’t miss another shot.

Now comes another test — Seton Hall also is undefeated, has four starters averaging double figures, is a big team and is coming to Columbia today.

The Pirates haven’t played a lot of great teams — they beat Longwood, Rider and Weber State — but they’re feeling confident. Starting three forwards and a center among their five, they have the height to challenge USC.

But USC has a hole card — sort of.

Forward Janee Johnson prepped at Providence Day School (N.C.) and played with USC sophomore Tiffany Mitchell. While Johnson isn’t the same player she was — she signed with Duke, tore her knee, went to a junior college and then went to Seton Hall — Mitchell had a scouting report to tell Staley.

“I just told them what I knew about her from high school,” Mitchell said. “I told them her habits. I think she’s still the same aggressive person that she’s always been. I don’t think that hindered her at all.”

Mitchell and Johnson will have their coach from Providence Day, Josh Springer, in the crowd watching them play today, but Staley is hoping for far more than a great homecoming for the two. She wants the Gamecocks to control the game and not leave it interesting, for any amount of time.

A three-game road trip beckons.

“We didn’t press,” Staley said. “We got a little bit more disciplined in what we were doing from a defensive standpoint. Aleighsa (Welch) just did work on the offensive boards. It was good that they’ve been in those situations where they could respond.

“I was glad to see them do it in the game.”

SETON HALL (3-0) at NO. 21 SOUTH CAROLINA (3-0)

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Colonial Life Arena

TV: None

RADIO: WNKT 107.5-FM

SETON HALL PROBABLE STARTERS: G Ka-Deidre Simmons 5-8 RJr. (16.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg); F Tabatha Richardson-Smith 6-0 So. (22.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg); F Bra’Shey Ali 6-0 Jr. (10.0 ppg, 15.3 rpg); F Janee Johnson 6-1 Sr. (10.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg); C Chizoba Ekedigwe 6-5 Jr. (5.3 pg, 2.3 rpg)

SOUTH CAROLINA PROBABLE STARTERS: G Khadijah Sessions 5-8 So. (6.3 ppg, 1.3 rpg); G Asia Dozier 6-0 So. (9.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg); G Tiffany Mitchell 5-9 So. (11.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg); F Aleighsa Welch 6-0 Jr. (13.7 ppg, 11.7 rpg); C Elem Ibiam 6-4 Jr. (13.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg)

NEXT GAME: USC tips off at Clemson at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

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