They’re expecting to see the usual, although the last time was unusual.
Sixth-ranked South Carolina hosts Auburn Thursday, taking on the Tigers for the second time this season. The Gamecocks crunched Auburn 73-47 in their first meeting this year, a red-hot first quarter from Kaela Davis supplying the sizzle.
USC expected to play 40 minutes against the press, coach Terri Williams-Flournoy’s specialty. Instead, Auburn packed itself into a zone – what most of USC’s opponents do – and dared the Gamecocks to shoot over it.
Davis agreed, launching five 3-pointers among her 19 first-quarter points. She took a seat in the second and third quarters due to foul trouble but when USC was ahead 29-6, it never had to sweat.
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“I thought hitting a couple of shots might spread them out a little bit,” Davis shrugged. “It didn’t.”
This time, coach Dawn Staley expects Auburn’s bread and butter. Point guard Ty Harris will be entrusted in weaving through the press to get USC’s scorers the ball, something which she’s improved on in each game.
“I think what they did the last time, I don’t think they were as aggressive as they normally were, and I think they were thinking about our post play,” Staley said. “I think we’ll see a lot more pressure than we did the first time around.”
The Gamecocks are getting into crunch time, leading the SEC by a half-game with five to go. They know if they win out, they’ll win their fourth regular-season championship, although they may have to share it with Mississippi State.
There’s also the immense matter of their next game – Monday at No. 1 Connecticut. But nobody’s thinking of that, or of title scenarios.
“They’re not a team in which they see the big picture, and I’m not going to give it to them,” Staley said. “They do, however, want to win. They want to be regular-season champions and want to win the tournament.”
NOTE: Former point guard Khadijah Sessions will be the color analyst on Thursday’s broadcast. It will be Sessions’ broadcasting debut.
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Who: Auburn (15-9, 5-5 SEC) at No. 6 USC (20-2, 10-1)
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Colonial Life Arena
TV: SEC Network Plus
Radio: 107.5 FM
Auburn’s probable starters: G Janiah McKay 5-6 So. (13.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg); G Brandy Montgomery 5-10 Sr. (14.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg); G/F Katie Frerking 6-1 Sr. (16.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg); F Jessica Jones 6-2 Jr. (4.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg); F Jazmine Jones 6-2 Jr. (4.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg)
South Carolina’s probable starters: G Ty Harris 5-10 Fr. (5.0 ppg, 1.6 rpg); G Allisha Gray 6-0 Jr. (13.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg); G Kaela Davis 6-2 Jr. (12.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg); F A’ja Wilson 6-5 Jr. (17.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg); C Alaina Coates 6-4 Sr. (13.9 ppg, 11.6 rpg)
Next game: South Carolina tips off at No. 1 Connecticut at 9 p.m. on Monday.