USC Women's Basketball

November 24, 2013

Women’s pregame: Winning will require edge

South Carolina crushed San Diego State in the first game of its California road trip, but the Gamecocks aren’t resting on that.

South Carolina crushed San Diego State in the first game of its California road trip, but the Gamecocks aren’t resting on that.

It’s early in the year. Opponents will get a lot tougher. And despite the scoring discrepancy — the No. 19 Gamecocks have won their first six games by an average of 33 points — USC has much to work on.

For instance, missed layups will hurt against SEC competition. They’re not affecting the Gamecocks now, because USC (6-0) has so much more talent than its opponents. But it soon could.

For instance, Monday night at Southern Cal.

“I’d like to see our post play get a little bit better,” coach Dawn Staley said before the team left. “USC, they are big. Not as athletic, probably, as our team. Playing at home, they feel real good about protecting their home court.”

The Trojans (3-1) are in their first season under former star player Cynthia Cooper-Dyke and are looking for a renaissance. It’s something that Cooper-Dyke has done at every stop in her coaching career.

She led Prairie View A&M, a program that had never had a winning season, to a 19-14 conference championship season after going 7-21 the year before. Moving on to UNC-Wilmington, Cooper-Dyke took an inherited 12-19 squad to a 24-9 season. At Texas Southern, she went 20-12 with a team that was coming off a 5-26 season.

Like many of the game’s luminaries, she and Staley go way back. Staley knows that Cooper-Dyke’s project could be paying immediate dividends, particularly since it’s in the part of the country known for stocking the classic “big girls” of the game.

USC likes to go at its opponents in the paint and has been successful, but could be more successful. So many chip-shot baskets or layups have rimmed out or are rainbowed over the hole that it’s difficult to keep track.

It’s a matter of concentration.

“Focusing and finishing. That’s it, really,” forward Aleighsa Welch said. “There’s no reason why we should miss layups, especially as many as we miss. And a lot of them are uncontested. We know that we have to correct that, now. Because once we start playing SECs and we start playing teams like North Carolina, we’re not going to be able to afford giving away those easy two points.”

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