No. 1 Huskies too much for Lady Gamecocks

Dawn Staley knew going into Sunday's game against #1 Connecticut that the Gamecocks had little hope of winning. She described the game as a "measuring stick," and wanted to see her players compete for 40 minutes, something they could not do nine days earlier against Stanford. She got the effort she wanted, but the Huskies still cruised to a 77-48 win.

"We competed for the entire game," Staley said. "It's just that you have to compete and make good decisions."

South Carolina took an early 4-0 lead behind sophomore Samone Kennedy, who finished with a team high 11 points. That was all the Huskies needed for a wakeup call, though. UConn quickly tied the game, and used a 13-3 run to take the lead they would hold the rest of the game. It was still a much better performance that last season, when Carolina was crushed in Storrs 97-39.

"They are a little more disciplined and a little more deliberate," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said of the Gamecocks. "They were able to stay in the game. Last year I thought once they got behind the game just took off and got away from them and they were never in the game. This group did a better job of remaining connected to the game."

The Gamecocks played well defensively for most of the first half, disrupting the Huskies, but UConn played better. Carolina shot just 28% from the field, and Connecticut finished the half strong to shoot 50%. In the second half, the Gamecocks shot much better, at 46%, but they allowed UConn to shoot better as well, 63%. Much like Stanford, UConn was too big and too strong inside, although Carolina closed the gap late to limit the rebounding deficit to 33-30. Tina Charles had a double-double in the first half for the Huskies, and finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds, while Demetress Adams (6 points, 5 rebounds) and Jewel May (8 points, 5 rebounds) both struggled with foul trouble.

"I thought we did a pretty good job of executing the game plan," Staley said. "We didn't always do it, but we were conscious about it."

The poor shooting had a lot to do with poor decision making. The Gamecocks had just three assists in the game, and turned the ball over 22 times. Not surprisingly, the Huskies were much better, dishing out 20 assists on 35 field goals, and turning the ball over just 11 times. Kennedy had seven turnovers for Carolina, and Lakeisha Sutton, who also scored 11, had four turnovers. UConn turned the turnovers into 29 fast break points, while Carolina had just two points in transition.

"The turnovers killed us, and the type of turnovers," said Staley. "[They were] the type of turnovers that led to easy buckets."

The loss did see the return of a pair of Gamecocks. Freshman guard Miranda Tate returned to action for the first time since injuring her left knee against Stanford. She looked tentative at times, and finished with no points on 0-4 shooting in 17 minutes. Freshman forward Charenee Stephens played her first game of the season after being sidelined for personal reasons. Stephens finished with no points and two rebounds in nine minutes of action.

"From a practice standpoint, it's great to have them back," said Staley. "Charenee gives us more depth in the post, which we desperately need. Miranda is not completely healthy, but it's good to get her some minutes in the game so she can get her confidence back."

The game was a homecoming of sorts for Connecticut guard Kalana Greene. The junior guard is a native of St. Stephens and had a sizable cheering section at the game. She finished with 5 points and 5 rebounds, and left the game to an ovation. Greene estimated that at least 150 people had come to see her play.

"I got to see a lot of family members," said Greene. "A lot of people who haven't seen me play in person got to see me, so it felt good."

Attendance for the game was 5,113. However, nearly half those at the game were cheering for the Huskies rather than the Gamecocks. Carolina returns to the court Tuesday afternoon at 3:00 against Jacksonville. That game is prior to the men's game against Clemson at 7:00.

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