South Carolina got the season off on the right foot with a 77-44 win over the Elon Phoneix. The Lady Gamecocks had a balanced attack on the night getting points from 10 different players including a game-high from senior Ashley Bruner with 15 points. Ieasia Walker was the other double-digit scorer for the Gamecocks with 13 points in the game.
The Gamecocks got off to a hot start scoring the first six points of the game and eventually building a 23-7 lead over Elon. However, the Phoenix would mount a comeback in the first half and eventually pull within seven with 5:27 left in the first half to bring the score to 28-21 in favor of South Carolina.
At that point, it was time for the Gamecocks defense to take over.
USC created some turnovers and went on a 17-4 run to close out the first half and lead 41-25. The Gamecocks forced 13 turnovers in the first half and scored 20 points off those turnovers. They also dominated in the paint scoring 28 points in the paint.
The second half would go much of the same way the first half ended as the Lady Gamecocks continued to build an insurmountable lead. The Gamecocks built up a comfortable 31-point lead with just under 12 minutes to play to allow for some playing time for some of the Gamecock freshman. Tiffany Davis, Khadijah Sessions and Asia Dozier all saw plenty of minutes down the stretch as USC continued to find a way to overcome a poor shooting performance in the second half to help secure the Gamecocks victory.
The Lady Gamecocks shot 35-percent in the second half after finishing the first half with 56-percent shooting from the field. The play in the paint was particularly strong for South Carolina as they added 24 points in the second half to go along with the 28 points they scored in the first half. South Carolina's defensive pressure forced 22 turnovers and allowed South Carolina the opportunity to score 34 points.
It wasn't pretty for South Carolina but they were able to get the job done. Ieasia Walker said after the game that there was a definite concern with the team's free throw shooting and it was something they planned to work on immediately in practice on Saturday. South Carolina finished the game with 50-percent shooting from the free throw line and will certainly need to improve there going forward.
Dawn Staley echoed that sentiment after the game in regards to the free throws.
"It is the same old same old."
While this was a good opportunity for the freshman to get some playing time, Walker indicated that they still looked like freshman at times. She said they made freshman mistakes but seemed to play better with the upperclassmen during the game.
One of those freshman, Tiffany Davis, gave South Carolina a spark in the first half when she was inserted into the lineup according to Dawn Staley.
"Tiffany Davis gave us a spark on the defensive end. When we substituted early, we lost some momentum. We're learning. We've got to figure out what they are. We don't know what freshman will be ready to play."
Staley said that this was a totally different team from last year based on the youth compared to last year's senior leadership. Once they figure things out, they'll be replicating some of the same success from last year.
"It's a totally different team. I think once our youngsters can grow up, we can still have those successes."
Staley said this was a game where they got experience that they needed. There was times when Staley said they could have gone with a different lineup, but it was a chance to let them get that experience in a live game.
"We tried to give them the experience that they needed. We used that opportunity to give them that experience."
There will be more opportunities for those freshman soon as the Gamecocks hit the road on Monday and will play at Louisiana Tech. Staley knows the challenges ahead taking her young team on the road and they'll have to be prepared for the pressure that comes from a tough road environment.
Elon's coach Charlotte Smith faced a similar situation tonight and found out just how tough life is on the road. Smith was a former teammate of Dawn Staley while they played in the WNBA for the Charlotte Sting and said after the game that the way the Gamecocks played on the court, it reminded her a lot of how Dawn Staley played the game of basketball.
She had one word to describe the Gamecocks..."tough."
This will likely be a recurring word you'll hear from opposing coaches all year long.
You have to believe Dawn Staley wouldn't have it any other way.
Gamecocks extinguish the Phoenix 77-44
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