Before South Carolina took on third-ranked Stanford Friday night, first-year coach Dawn Staley said the Gamecocks needed to get used to playing that type of competition, especially with the rugged SEC schedule on the horizon after the first of the year.
What Staley probably won’t see again though is a frontline that has six players that are 6-foot-3 or taller and are led by two All-American candidates in Jayne Appel and Kayla Pedersen.
That duo wreaked havoc on the inside as the Cardinal rebounded from a loss at No. 8 Duke on Tuesday night with a resounding 78-47 victory against the Gamecocks at the Colonial Life Arena.
Both Appel and Pedersen nearly recorded double-doubles in the first half when Stanford (8-2) built a 37-28 lead. Appel had eight points and nine rebounds while Pedersen had nine points and 10 boards. They held a 25-12 advantage on the boards with the Cardinal having eight offensive rebounds to two for the Gamecocks. Both of USC’s offensive boards came on the same offensive possessions.
Stanford finished with a 53-21 advantage on the glass.
“We never want to get out-rebounded like we did again,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “We got beat by a good rebounding team with big bodies.”
Appel, who played for Staley in the Pan-Am games, had 15 points and 14 rebounds while Pedersen collected 15 points and 16 rebounds even though both had limited minutes due to foul trouble. Both are 6-4 and helped limit the Gamecocks to eight points in the paint while the Cardinal had 42.
If Staley hopes to turn around the recent misfortunes of the South Carolina program, she must find a way do it against ranked opponents. Since defeating a ranked Arkansas team in February of 2003, the Gamecocks are 1-38 against ranked opponents and have lost twenty in a row. The only win in that stretch came against No. 14 Minnesota on December 13, 2005.
Senior guard Brionna Dickerson knows this is the type of style the Gamecocks will have to face night after night in the SEC. Dickerson had 11 points.
“This is preparing us, that’s what our non-conference is for” the former Heathwood Hall standout said. “Our conference is one of the top ones so we look at it as helping us get ready.”
Long-time Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer was the coach of the 1996 Olympic team that featured Staley and USC assistant coaches Carla McGhee and Nikki McCray and she has little doubt that Staley can turn around a Gamecock program that has not reached the NCAA Tournament since the 2003 season.
“I think Dawn is going do to a great job with the South Carolina team,” VanDerveer said. “They are scrappy and they don’t have the size we have and I thought we were able to take it do them inside. It’s going to take her a little time but I think she will do a great job. Dawn is a competitor and a fabulous basketball coach and I will certainly be cheering for her from long distance.”
Staley hopes playing this competition will be a learning experience for her team.
“You have to learn from losses,” Staley said. “You have to take good and bad things from it. There are certainly a lot of good things we will take from it.”
After keeping the margin close in the first half, Stanford opened the second half on a 16-5 run to build the lead to twenty and the closest South Carolina got the rest of the way was 18 points. The Gamecocks shot 20 percent (5-for-25) from the field after the break. Lakeisha Sutton led USC with 13 points.