Gamecocks fall short in Staley's home debut

Dawn Staley was thrown into the fire Wednesday night. Not only was she coaching her first game in front of the home fans, but she was doing so against the arch-rival Clemson Tigers. The Gamecocks struggled out of the gate, quickly falling behind 7-0. They were never able to make up that deficit, losing 52-45.

"We struggle to score," said Staley. "A lot had to do with Demetress [Adams] and Brionna [Dickerson] and C.J. [Pace]. They're our seniors and they're going to have to fill up the stat sheet a little bit better than they did for us."

Clemson led by as many as 17 in the first half, but every time the Tigers appeared poised to pull away, South Carolina made a run. The Gamecocks finished the first half on an 8-0 run to get back within seven at halftime, 31-24.

That came in spite of a horrendous shooting performance, including Brionna Dickerson who finished the game making just one of her ten shot attempts. The Gamecocks shot just 31% from the floor and only 5-9 from the free throw line. Meanwhile the Tigers hit 44% of their shots and both of their free throws.

The second half featured more of the same for Carolina, as they shot only 35% from the field. However, they stepped up the defensive pressure, and held Clemson to less than 30% shooting. That gave the Gamecocks a chance, as they pulled to within four points midway through the half, and trailed by just five with four minutes to play. Clemson always had an answer, usually in the form of Lele Hardy, who finished with a game-high 17 points and nine rebounds.

"I was shocked really [that we did not start better], but we picked it up," said freshman guard Miranda Tate. "We fought hard to get back in it. We just got down by too much."

Carolina struggled all night to handle Clemson's defensive pressure. The Tigers used a variety of pressure defenses to disrupt the Gamecock offense. They harassed Carolina into 25 turnovers, and frequently forced the Gamecocks to work deep into the shot clock.

"We tried to do some different things with the half court trap, slow it down a little bit, and make their guards think," said Clemson coach Cristy McKinney. "We were trying, even in the man-to-man, to really pressure the ball."

Lauren Falohun led Carolina with 10 points, and Adams had 11 rebounds before fouling out. Adams had just two points, and Pace scored just four. In just two games, scoring has quickly established itself as the biggest challenge for this team, after totaling only 42 and 45 points in the first two contests.

"Every night [it is a concern]," said Staley. "Defensively, they scored 52 points, which is pretty good. We've got that part in check. We've just got to get, offensively, some production."

Despite the loss, the atmosphere in the Colonial Life Arena was impressive for Staley's debut. The Gamecocks fed off the support in the second half, but Staley was disappointed they did not respond better at the start of the game.

"I think our players were energized," she said. "I think when we were making our comeback… our players felt [the energy]."

To discuss this article, visit The Cockpit, our free forum, or The Golden Spur, our premium forum.

Gamecock Anthem Top Stories