STANFORD, Calif. — It’s easy to laugh it off now, because everything turned out OK.
South Carolina lost to North Carolina in December, but the Gamecocks went on to have a great season and Khadijah Sessions stepped back into her role and played well.
But the loss still lingers, especially with a rematch on deck. Khadijah Sessions can’t afford to have another bad game against the Tar Heels, not with so much on the line.
“Very, very, very amped up for this game,” the Gamecocks’ sophomore point guard said. “I know, personally, I didn’t play well when I was in the game, and I did get hurt and couldn’t finish off about 15 minutes of the game. That adds more chips to my shoulder about this game.”
On Dec. 18, USC lost its first game of the season, to North Carolina in Myrtle Beach. It was a night to forget in two ways for Sessions.
Playing in her hometown, Sessions was pressing all night. She was 1-of-8 from the floor and 2-of-4 from the line, scoring four points and collecting one assist to two turnovers (she did have two steals). Looking back, she blamed herself for being too hyped and wanting to give the hometown folks a show.
Then came the other. Sessions tweaked her left ankle during the game and made it worse during a dead-ball stoppage. The Gamecocks, trailing throughout the game, had cut a 13-point lead to two in the second half, which forced the Tar Heels to burn a timeout.
Wanting to celebrate, the 5-foot-8 Sessions leaped to chest-bump the 6-0 Aleighsa Welch at midcourt. But Sessions landed awkwardly and turned her ankle. She hobbled to the huddle as coach Dawn Staley stared in disbelief.
“We have to be more conscious of stuff like that,” Staley said after that game.
Sessions missed the rest of the game and the next five games with a sprain and had to re-earn her spot when the two Tiffanys, Davis and Mitchell, filled in during her absence.
Once Sessions returned, she raised her game. Sessions became a workhorse on the defensive end, saving her best for her last game.
Hounding Oregon State point guard Sydney Wiese all night, Sessions anchored a three-player wall that kept the Beavers’ leading scorer for the game’s first 38 minutes.
“Khadijah used her speed and was real disciplined staying in plays and making sure (Wiese) shot over someone, over a contested hand,” Staley said.
Sessions will be one of the players trying to guard Diamond DeShields, UNC’s freshman dynamo, on Sunday. After scoring 13 points and playing lockdown defense on Wiese, Sessions compared DeShields to NBA star Kevin Durant.
“She’s a relentless scorer, a relentless person with the ball in her hand,” Sessions said. “I’ve got to make every shot difficult.”
Although a good play will result in a high-five, nothing more.
“No chest-bumping, that’s the rule,” she laughed. “No chest-bumping, ever again.”
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