South Carolina women's basketball coach Dawn Staley has seen things from her team recently that have given her flashbacks to last season's 10-18 struggle.
Starting tonight with the Gamecocks' SEC opener against No. 11 LSU (11-1), Staley hopes her team can turn it around quickly against an opponent that she sees as having similarities to USC.
South Carolina (7-5) is young - no seniors - and inexperienced, but there is little question about the talent. Staley compares USC's situation to LSU's from a year ago, when the Tigers went 19-11 and lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament to Louisville.
LSU had one senior last season and relied on a young team led by Allison Hightower. The Gamecocks are led by junior Valerie Nainima (19.3 ppg.) and have a potential star in freshman Kelsey Bone.
"They are fun to watch on film," Staley said of LSU. "When we are playing like we're capable, we're pretty fun to watch, too. The similarities to where LSU was last year at this time to where we are now are pretty close. Hopefully things turn out the same way. LSU is way better than they were last year."
Staley thought the Gamecocks played their best game of the season in a 93-85 loss to North Carolina shortly before Christmas, but they didn't capitalize on that momentum and came out sluggish in the Saint Joseph's Hawk Classic to end December.
Despite playing in a tournament in which it was the only team with a winning record, the Gamecocks lost their opener to Boston University 68-67. Staley said they didn't play much better in their second game, a 73-46 victory against Brown.
Staley said she had not previously seen from her team the kind of bad decisions it made during the tournament.
"We were very undisciplined and didn't play with the effort we got against UNC," she said. "Our team right now is day-by-day. We'll see if we can match that intensity we got against UNC (today), but I can tell you that loss to Boston will be with us a long time."
Staley is hopeful that beginning SEC play will ratchet up USC's intensity.
The second-year coach has been playing a deep bench but thinks it might be time to give Lauren Falohun a longer look at point guard.
Starter Samone Kennedy has struggled lately, and Ieasia Walker is a freshman who is learning Staley's system. Falohun has been the odd person out but scored six points and had a steal in 16 minutes against Brown. Plus, she has played an SEC season before.
"I'd like to get CoCo (Falohun) in the game a little more," Staley said. "She probably deserves to play more than we've played her because she brings it every day in practice. Plus, she has been through the SEC and she knows what it is going to take."