Cloninger Soundoff: Next stretch crucial to USC's SEC hopes

Posted by DAVID CLONINGER on January 9, 2014 

South Carolina guards Olivia Gaines (2) and Tiffany Mitchell go for a loose ball against Kentucky. USC's two wins this week elevated it to No. 8 in the country.

TRACY GLANTZ — Tracy Glantz

I asked knowing I would get the standard “one game at a time” response. And I got it from three of the four Gamecocks that were in the postgame session.

But Dawn Staley added something to her statement about having the SEC championship right there for the taking, after USC improved to 3-0 in the league against one of the best teams in the league.

She recognized the possiblity, and has actually said it to her team.

“I did just talk to our team a little bit tonight about the end,” Staley said. “The last five games of our SEC season are eye-openers. We have to take care of what we take care of. We got to take care of our job and steal some road wins.”

USC’s last five games are at No. 12 LSU, at No. 9 Kentucky, hosting co-SEC leader Florida, hosting No. 25 Georgia and at No. 8 Tennessee. It’s why the next eight games, in which USC should be favored in all of them, are so crucial – the Gamecocks have the great start to go with them now.

Win them, and the SEC regular-season championship is a very strong possibility, because those last five are no joke. Awful tough to go undefeated or even come close to it in this league.

Perhaps just close enough will be enough to win.

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