USC WOMEN

Gamecocks take aim at Kentucky sweep

Wildcats regain form after upset of Lady Vols

dcloninger@thestate.comFebruary 19, 2014 

USC head coach Dawn Staley addresses her team during 2013 game.

C MICHAEL BERGEN — mbergen@thestate.com

  • GAMECOCKS VS. WILDCATS

    WHO: USC (23-2, 11-1 SEC) at Kentucky (19-6, 7-5)

    WHEN: 7 p.m. TV: SportSouth

    WHERE: Memorial Coliseum, Lexington, Ky.

    USC’s probable starters: G Khadijah Sessions 5-8 So. (7.8 ppg, 1.5 rpg); G Asia Dozier 6-0 So. (7.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg); G Tiffany Mitchell 5-9 So. (15.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg); F Aleighsa Welch 6-0 Jr. (13.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg); C Elem Ibiam 6-4 Jr. (9.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg)

    Kentucky’s probable starters: G Bria Goss 5-10 Jr. (9.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg); G Janee Thompson 5-7 So. (9.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg); G Kastine Evans 5-8 Sr. (9.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg); F Samarie Walker 6-1 Sr. (9.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg); F DeNesha Stallworth 6-3 Sr. (11.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg)

    NEXT: USC hosts Florida at 1 p.m. Sunday

Beat ’em once, should be able to beat ’em again, right?

If only it were that simple.

“They’re starting to play like the Kentucky that’s been at the top of this league,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said Wednesday. “It’s alarming that they’re starting to play their best basketball at this time of the season.”

The No. 4 Gamecocks (23-2, 11-1 SEC) beat Kentucky, then ranked ninth, 68-59 in Columbia on Jan. 9. The Wildcats have spent most of the time since struggling to regain their edge. But then the Wildcats beat Tennessee in Knoxville for the first time since 1985 and found their touch.

USC blasted LSU on the road in its last game — a stellar start to its crucial end-of-season stretch — giving the team confidence that it can go on the road and beat anyone.

Just win, and all of the title talk, No. 1 seed discussion and other considerations fall into place.

“We control our own destiny,” Staley said. “We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

USC will try to get a handle on Jennifer O’Neill, who doesn’t start but leads the Wildcats in scoring. The Gamecocks must also try to disrupt Kentucky’s rhythm. A physical yet fast team, the Wildcats like to push teams into hurried passing so they can get a turnover.

“Probably more than half the game, they want to play in transition and push it and score in the paint,” Staley said. “We’ve got to make sure we have layers in our defense. It’s hard to stop a team’s strength, as far as when they’re just pushing it at you and taking quick shots. It’s keeping you off-balance.”

The Gamecocks will counter with their strength — being efficient on offense and getting enough defense to get a few fast-break buckets. The inside game was slightly derailed at LSU — Alaina Coates shook off early foul trouble to score 13 points but starter Elem Ibiam had one point — but the Gamecocks again turned to their duo to get their points.

Welch and Tiffany Mitchell combined for 38 points and led the Gamecocks over the Tigers. Mitchell, lauded by ESPN this week as one of the top 10 clutch players in the game, will be doubly tasked — keep putting the ball in the hole and be the first woman up to defend O’Neill.

The Gamecocks knew it would be a challenge to finish what they’ve started, but they are eager to start playing the hand they were dealt.

GAMECOCKS VS. WILDCATS

WHO: USC (23-2, 11-1 SEC) at Kentucky (19-6, 7-5)

WHEN: 7 p.m. TV: SportSouth

WHERE: Memorial Coliseum, Lexington, Ky.

USC’s probable starters: G Khadijah Sessions 5-8 So. (7.8 ppg, 1.5 rpg); G Asia Dozier 6-0 So. (7.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg); G Tiffany Mitchell 5-9 So. (15.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg); F Aleighsa Welch 6-0 Jr. (13.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg); C Elem Ibiam 6-4 Jr. (9.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg)

Kentucky’s probable starters: G Bria Goss 5-10 Jr. (9.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg); G Janee Thompson 5-7 So. (9.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg); G Kastine Evans 5-8 Sr. (9.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg); F Samarie Walker 6-1 Sr. (9.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg); F DeNesha Stallworth 6-3 Sr. (11.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg)

NEXT: USC hosts Florida at 1 p.m. Sunday

Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState

Go Gamecocks is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service