There werent any giddy expressions or timeouts to show off the new dance step. South Carolinas beaten big opponents over the past three seasons, and with Dawn Staleys 24-hour rule firmly in place, Fridays practice was not an opportunity to keep celebrating Thursdays win against No. 9 Kentucky.
There were two reasons. One, as good as it is for the No. 10 Gamecocks to look at their 3-0 SEC record and tie for first place, there are 13 SEC games to go. Records can go from great to awful in a heartbeat.
The second USC was still feeling the effects from playing a physical Kentucky team and didnt feel like cutting up when it needed energy to stay on its feet.
They were a little banged-up, Staley said. We wanted to come in and just make sure that it was more of a mental day. Physically, they were tired. I think we got back in the gym and got them re-focused on the task at hand, which is Auburn.
The Gamecocks (15-1, 3-0) are a young team but a team with a few veterans that know how tough it is to play SEC basketball every three days or so. Running, pushing, shoving and colliding with a team as strong as the Wildcats took its toll on USC, but the Auburn game Sunday wasnt going to wait it was be ready or be prepared to lose.
USC got its legs back under it and left on Friday night for the Plains, Staley hoping that a night trip and hotel stay would have the Gamecocks rested for a practice/shootaround in Auburn Arena on Saturday and the game Sunday. The Tigers were one of the most improved teams in the SEC last year, their first under coach Terri Williams-Flournoy, and while they are 10-5 this year, their personnel and the series history had Staley apprehensive.
USC held on to win 59-51 in Columbia last year and lost at Auburn 53-49 the year before. The teams have split the past four meetings, USC winning its two at home. The Tigers have one player above 6-foot-1, but each seems to have an extra set of arms.
They have a whole lot of length, and they make you pass the ball, Staley said. They engage you in making looping passes and they use their athleticism to put a lot of pressure on you. They make your offense think. For us, having young point guards, theyll force them to think a lot more than usual.
The Kentucky game saw Khadijah Sessions back on the court, and she played well despite a lengthy layoff. While Tiffany Davis will continue to start at the point, having Sessions makes USC better. She has seen a lot of the competition first-hand and knows how to beat it.
Missing out on five games was a big, big miss, Sessions said. Just trying to work back into playing the game.
Some of the things that worked against Kentucky and Vanderbilt rainbow passes across the court in a set offense, more rainbow passes downcourt on the break wont work against Auburn. USC will have to be crisp and precise for 40 minutes.
The previous game wont have a mental residue. The Gamecocks know what a big-game hangover can do.
Like coach said, we got to turn the page, sophomore Asia Dozier said. We enjoyed the win (Thursday) night, but were treating it just like a loss. Keep things moving.
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