As the South Carolina women’s basketball team turns toward California and an NCAA Tournament regional, coach Dawn Staley has her approach set.
Less is more.
“The less time that we spend on the floor, the more time that can be spent watching a little bit of film seeing where we can get better,” Staley said. “Our numbers are down, so we don’t want to put ourselves in a position where someone gets injured.”
At the moment, the Gamecocks are down to 10 available players after the Alaina Coates season-ending ankle injury, and that’s before the status of Allisha Gray is known. Gray, South Carolina’s third-leading scorer, went down clutching her knee in Sunday’s tight win against Arizona State and had to be carried to the locker room.
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Staley said she didn’t know Gray’s status after the game, but said the medical staff was reviewing the video of when she went down. The team’s official account tweeted Monday Gray was on the mend.
With Gray questionable, the Gamecocks’ rotation grows precariously thin. Of the nine remaining players, Tiffany Davis, Araion Bradshaw and Victoria Patrick have played sparingly. None played Sunday, when USC used seven players despite massive foul trouble.
Keeping all hands on deck becomes vital.
“A lot of it is just trimming the fat off of our practices and just maybe working on two or three things instead of a full practice,” Staley said. “At this time of the season, you’re not going to change much. You’ll throw a wrinkle here and there, and that’s what we did for this particular game, and we’ll get ready”
Had USC not been at home, there’s a good chance the Sun Devils would have pulled out a win in the wild contest. At least that’s the way Staley saw it.
She came away from the weekend lauding the crowd that made 8,000-plus sound like a whole lot more.
“They gave us our best shot,” Staley said of ASU. “I feel very fortunate to have played on our home court in front of our fans. They willed us into another victory.”
Four for four
With Sunday’s win, the Gamecocks made the second weekend of the tournament for the fourth year in a row.
But Staley pointed out the rather stark changes in personnel, even since last year. The group that beat Arizona State had only two of the top 10 players in minutes per game from 2015-16. Sometimes the constant success covers that up, but only A’ja Wilson and guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore held notable roles before this, and only Wilson played in crunch time.
“A’ja’s the only one that’s played and experienced that,” Staley said. “For our team to come together and be resilient, work though injuries, to work through playing out of position, to put us in this position, a lot of people say, ‘Well yeah, you’re talented.’ But that doesn’t mean it always has to work out. Everybody has to do their part.”
Sweet 16 Pep Rally
When: Tuesday, 6 p.m.
Where: Freedom Plaza by Colonial Life Arena
Speakers: Harris Pastides, coaches and players