If you attend Thursday night’s game at the Carolina Coliseum and enjoy yourself, thank Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley.
The two country stars booked the Colonial Life Arena for Thursday’s concert, creating the schedule conflict that forces the USC women’s basketball game against LSU across the street.
It has been more than 10 years since the former home of the Gamecocks played host to a basketball game. During its retirement, it has been the site of frequent basketball practices, though, so the Gamecocks said they won’t be dealing with any complications when they hit the court.
“I think it’s a great change of pace,” USC coach Dawn Staley said. “Playing here, the mystique of playing here and having our players play here, it’s a great thing.”
And about that court … it sports the old SEC logos, replete with ancient scuff marks. The large scoreboards above the two end zones also are inoperable, so game information will be displayed on courtside LED boards.
Staley brought Temple to the arena in Dec. 2001, so she has an idea of what it is like to play on the court.
The players routinely practiced on their own in the arena during the summer and occasionally use the arena on their own.
“I’m kind of used to it, but it’s going to be kind of interesting playing here for the first time in an actual game,” senior guard Ieasia Walker said. “I appreciate it a lot. It’s going to be exciting. I hope we have a good game. Maybe if we do well enough we’ll get to play a few more games.”
To do well enough would mean the Gamecocks need to find more offense. USC (14-3) is coming off a 40-point effort at Georgia that dropped its SEC mark to 2-2.
In LSU (11-6, 2-2), Staley sees a team that might suit the Gamecocks moreso than Tennessee and Georgia, two teams that forced USC into unproductive half-court offensive sets.
“We have to push the ball a lot more. We have to play in transition a little bit more than we have,” Staley said. “Hopefully, we can play off shooting the ball fluently instead of thinking about looking at the zone and having to pass the ball around the horn.”
Perhaps fitting, the last women’s game at the arena also featured a ranked USC squad. Then-No. 13 USC defeated No. 19 Cincinnati 75-56. According to research done by USC’s sports information department, USC owns a 236-96 record on the floor.
“I think the community likes the idea of us playing here,” Staley said. “Hopefully, we can get a lot of people in the stands and bring back the glory days.”