Women’s pregame: No. 19 LSU draws total focus

dcloninger@thestate.comFebruary 15, 2014 

  • GAMECOCKS VS. TIGERS

    WHO: South Carolina (22-2, 10-1 SEC) vs. LSU (18-6, 7-4)

    WHEN: 3:30 p.m. Sunday

    WHERE: Maravich Assembly Center, Baton Rouge, La.

    TV: ESPN2

    USC’S PROBABLE STARTERS: G Khadijah Sessions 5-8 So. (7.7 ppg, 1.4 rpg); G Asia Dozier 6-0 So. (7.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg); G Tiffany Mitchell 5-9 So. (15.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg); F Aleighsa Welch 6-0 Jr. (13.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg); C Elem Ibiam 6-4 Jr. (9.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg)

    LSU’S PROBABLE STARTERS: G Jeanne Kenney (10.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg); G Danielle Ballard (9.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg); G Raignye Moncrief (11.6 pg, 4.9 rpg); F Theresa Plaisance (14.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg); C Shanece McKinney (7.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg)

    NEXT: USC tips off at No. 18 Kentucky at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

The icy weather didn’t prevent fifth-ranked South Carolina from practicing. If anything, it helped.

The Gamecocks didn’t have class because school was cancelled, so they could go to practice and also get in the gym for individual sessions.

It helped drive the point home. USC is focusing on one opponent at a time.

But everybody knows what the final five games could mean.

“We’ve got to try to win the rest of our SEC games,” redshirt sophomore Tina Roy said Friday. “We can’t take a loss, because I know it’s going to affect everything we’re trying to do.”

That is win the SEC regular-season championship. USC (22-2, 10-1 SEC) has fought to get to this position — first place, by a game over Tennessee and Texas A&M — and doesn’t plan to give it up now that the end is so close. Yet the Gamecocks also know how hard it’s going to be — three of the final five are on the road, all against Top 25 teams, and the two at home (Georgia and Florida) are not gimmes.

Staley has talked about the situation sparingly.

Her approach has been to talk about the next game, nothing else. With a bye week in place and an increased focus due to three days of no school, USC is locked in on No. 19 LSU.

“They’ve been pretty focused,” Staley said. “We’ve been able to practice every day over the break, which is good. It’s going to be a really tough environment for us, but we’ve got to do what we’ve been doing.”

USC is trying to tie its school record for road SEC wins (five), set last season, and will try to do it in a place where it’s only won once. The Gamecocks are 1-12 in Baton Rouge, and the only win was in 1994.

The leading scorer in the league last year, Theresa Plaisance, heads up an LSU team full of dangerous athletes.

“I think she can score in a variety of ways,” Staley said. “It’s everybody’s job (to defend her). Whoever’s matched up on her in any given time has to try to speed her up, not let her fluidly get into her shot. She’s long, she’s accurate and she can score with the best of them.”

Roy hails from Kaplan, La., an hour from Baton Rouge. Having played at LSU for AAU ball and been recruited by the Tigers, Roy feels the Gamecocks will be well-represented.

“I know a lot of people are going to be at the game, like we’re going to have a home-court advantage,” Roy said. “To be honest, they’re getting a charter bus to be there, and other people are coming in their cars. There’s going to be a lot of people.”

It will take more than fans. With the title in sight, the Gamecocks are hoping not to lose their mojo now.

“That’s all we’ve stressed on — LSU,” Staley reiterated. “We know our personnel, being together on the road, just making sure that everything that we’ve worked for is ready to rock ‘n’ roll on Sunday afternoon.”

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