Women’s pregame: Gamecocks look for rare win at Tennessee

dcloninger@thestate.comMarch 1, 2014 

USC's Elem Ibiam blocks Georgia Bulldogs forward Merritt Hempe (13) during action at the Colonial Life Arena. The Gamecocks won, 67-56, clenching the SEC.

TRACY GLANTZ — Tracy Glantz

  • GAMECOCKS VS. LADY VOLS

    WHO: South Carolina (26-2, 14-1 SEC) at Tennessee (23-5, 12-3)

    WHEN: 2:30 p.m. Sunday

    WHERE: Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tenn.

    TV: ESPNU

    RADIO: WISW-AM 1320

    USC’s probable starters: G Khadijah Sessions 5-8 So. (7.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg); G Tiffany Mitchell 5-9 So. (15.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg); G Asia Dozier 6-0 So. (6.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg); F Aleighsa Welch 6-0 Jr. (13.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg); C Elem Ibiam 6-4 Jr. (9.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg)

    Tennessee’s probable starters: G Andrava Carter 5-9 Fr. (6.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg); G Meighan Simmons 5-9 Sr. (16.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg); F Bashaara Graves 6-2 So. (9.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg); F Cierra Burdick 6-2 Jr. (8.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg); C Isabelle Harrison 6-3 Jr. (13.2 ppg, 9.1 rpg)

    NEXT: SEC tourney opener at noon Friday

It was business as usual.

There was no goofing around, trying trick shots or half-court heaves. There was no piping in of “We Are The Champions.” There was no confetti strewn on the floor or commemorative newspapers taped to the seats.

OK, there were cupcakes afterward.

But it was still basketball practice. SEC regular-season champs or not, there was a game to prepare for.

“We want to win it all,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said Friday. “We want to win every game that we play. I think it will be a huge letdown for us not to come out with the same intensity and focus that we’ve had all season long. When you do that, sometimes it’s contagious. We don’t want to take that into the SEC tournament.”

Less than 24 hours removed from winning her first SEC title, Staley’s vibe was in stark contrast to the celebratory mood she sported after Thursday’s win against Georgia. The trophy had been locked away and the hugs saved for another time.

It’s great that USC won, but USC wants to keep winning. Thursday was not the end of the season.

“You want to stay sharp in what you’re doing,” she said. “Getting the regular-season championship was great. It’s over now. Looking forward to winning another championship, which is the SEC championship.”

First comes Sunday’s regular-season finale at Tennessee. The Gamecocks can’t help or hurt themselves with the result – they’re locked into the top seed for next week’s SEC tournament.

But perhaps a win in Knoxville helps them out with the NCAA tournament selection committee and another No. 1 seed. Perhaps a win in Knoxville combined with the rest of the regular season makes USC’s SEC tournament results obsolete.

A win in Knoxville would let the rest of the SEC know that USC is here to stay. The Gamecocks have beaten Tennessee twice in 46 tries – and only once in Knoxville.

The once was two years ago as USC rallied in the final minutes to stun the Lady Vols.

Only three of the current Gamecocks were on that team and remembers what it was like to walk out of Thompson-Boling Arena a winner. One has been expressing that feeling to the teammates that weren’t yet suited up.

“I’ve been talking to them a little bit,” center Elem Ibiam said. “Just mentioned that feeling we had after we won that game on their home court. Hopefully we can go up there and do that again.”

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