The South Carolina woman’s basketball team probably will see a lot of zone defense to try and offset the Gamecocks’ height advantage in the post.
If Asia Dozier and the rest of the guards can shoot the ball like they did in Thursday night’s 81-54 victory against College of Charleston at Colonial Life Arena, teams might have to pick their poison.
Dozier set a career-high with 16 points, and Aleighsa Welch dominated on the glass with a career-best 17 rebounds to help the Gamecocks overcome an early nine-point deficit and win handily. The No. 21 Gamecocks finished with nine 3-pointers, four from Dozier, and put teams on notice that they can make the outside shot. Five players finished in double figures, and everybody got onto the stat sheet.
“It was a good showing by everyone,” Staley said. “I think Asia got us going. Hopefully we’ll get to the point where everybody is a scoring threat and people aren’t playing four and five feet off of us.”
The emergence of Dozier is something Staley has been waiting on for over a year. The sophomore from Spring Valley struggled with confidence last season but earned a starting spot this year.
“I know it was a tough year last year and a tough couple of games where she didn’t get the opportunity to shoot it.” Staley said. “Tonight, I think she felt it, and it was going in for her. I’m very happy for Asia. It was a long time coming.”
Charleston (1-2) started off making 7 of its first 11 shots. The Cougars built their biggest lead at 25-16 with 10:24 remaining in the half, but the Gamecocks used a 22-3 run to take control.
Dozier spearheaded the run with three 3-pointers. She started the decisive run with a 3 from the corner, then gave South Carolina (3-0) the lead for good with her back-to-back 3’s with seven minutes remaining in the half.
“I haven’t seen that in a while, so it felt real good to see the ball go in,” Dozier said. “Knocking down the open shot was a big focus for us in practice, and it fell for us.”
Once the outside shots starting falling, Welch and Elam Ibiam had room to work inside. Welch, the junior captain, nearly had a double-double at halftime. She had nine points and 12 rebounds after the opening 20 minutes and finished with 12 points and 17 boards.
Welch helped the Gamecocks own the rebounding battle 30-17, which helped USC to a 15-6 advantage in second-chance points. USC won the rebound battle 62-38, including 23 offensive boards.
“When a team plays a zone, it’s very important to pick your spots and rebound,” Welch said. “We were relentless, and it came from everyone. Everyone crashed the board. It was about us having that relentless attitude. At first, we weren’t hitting shots, but we were able to get second-chance points.”
Being able to overcome the early deficit was something Staley was glad to see. It was the first time the Gamecocks had trailed this season.
“Teams are going to come in and play well against us,” Staley said. “I thought it showed true character from our team that we didn’t hang our heads. We fought a little bit harder, dug a little bit deeper and got ourselves in the game. Once we got control of the game through rebounding and hitting shots and pushing the ball in transition, it felt more like our type of game.”
Staley has one concern moving forward. The Gamecocks struggled from the free-throw line, making 22-of-42. The struggles haven’t hurt South Carolina, but it could be a factor when the competition level increases.
“If we’re going to get there 42 times a game, obviously we want to score more points from there,” Staley said. “I hope we’re not going down the road that we did last year where it becomes such a mental thing that we shoot them at this rate. Hopefully we can do some things to upend that.”
Percentages: FG .309, FT .500. 3-Point Goals: 3-13, .231 (Hewatt 1-1, Frye 1-4, Hall 1-7, Gardner 0-1). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 2 (Hopkins 2). Turnovers: 10 (Frye 5, Hopkins 2, Bolden, Brown, Hall). Steals: 5 (Frye 2, Hewatt, Ramer, Brown). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .379, FT .524. 3-Point Goals: 9-28, .321 (Dozier 4-8, Mitchell 2-3, Roy 2-9, Davis 1-2, Montout 0-2, Sessions 0-2, Morrison 0-2). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 8 (Ibiam 3, Coates 3, Montout, Welch). Turnovers: 12 (Davis 2, Mitchell 2, Montout 2, Coates, Gaines, Dozier, Sessions, Welch). Steals: 5 (Welch 2, Davis, Gaines, Ibiam). Technical Fouls: None. A—4,882. Officials—Dee Kantner, Joe Cunningham, Ed Sidlasky.