WBB: Gamecocks host Lady Vols

The South Carolina women's basketball team hosts #5 Tennessee Thursday night at the Colonial Life Arena. The Lady Vols, who narrowly escaped with a win last season in Columbia, has not lost to the Gamecocks in over 30 years.

It hasn't happened since 1980.

That is the last - and only - time that the South Carolina women's basketball team defeated the Tennessee Lady Volunteers. It was also Lady Vol head coach Pat Summitt's first season as Tennessee head coach. The fifth-ranked Lady Vols are an impressive 40-1 against the Gamecocks and will be looking for number 41 tonight when they visit the Colonial Life Arena to take on the Gamecocks.

"(They're) the best team in our league," head coach Dawn Staley said Wednesday. "They've added some athleticism and speed to their basketball team, which was a good team last year."

It was a team last year that the Gamecocks nearly beat. Carolina got out to a 13-0 lead before Tennessee even knew what hit them. However, as every great team does, the Lady Vols chipped away and got the deficit to one at the half.

Even when the Vols took a 48-47 lead - their first of the game - in the second half, the Gamecocks came right back to reclaim the lead. The Gamecocks managed just one point the final 4:20 as the Vols closed the game on an 8-1 run to grab a 60-55 win and extend the streak for one more year.

"We stuck to the gameplan," Staley said of last year's performance. "We took what they gave us from an offensive standpoint."

The Gamecocks have been progressing over the course of the season. After a brutal non-conference schedule that included Xavier and Stanford - two top 10 teams - Carolina is battle-tested.

"We've been progressing to the point where we can at least compete," Staley said. "It's certainly a measuring stick to see where we are."

One player that has improved offensively is senior guard Valerie Nainima. Nainima - last season's leading scorer - tore her ACL over the summer and missed the first portion of the season. She has slowly seen her offensive production rise, scoring seven of her 11 points in overtime in a victory over Ole Miss the last time out. If the Gamecocks hope to get that program-defining victory, Nainima - along with leading scorer Ieasia Walker and La'keisha Sutton - will need to have big games from the perimeter positions.

"I don't think we've had a defining win since I've been here," Staley said. "I think the stage is set for us to compete and possibly put ourselves in a position to win."

The stage is set. #5 Tennessee. South Carolina. 7:00. Colonial Life Arena. Will this be the year?

Halftime

AcroDunk, who appeared on the hit show "America's Got Talent" will be in the Colonial Life Arena to perform during halftime.

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