Neither Dawn Staley, nor any of her players, were happy. But because South Carolina was winning, it was put into the pile of things to improve upon.
Now it’s in the other pile — the one headed “Got to do something about this ASAP.”
The Gamecocks lost their first SEC game, to Texas A&M, for several reasons. If USC had been better at free throws — a three-year problem that was a lot better until that game — it still might have won. USC (16-2, 4-1 SEC) didn’t, though, and was left staring at too many missed opportunities.
Hand the ball to the opponent 20 times, including several where A&M didn’t lay a hand on it, and it comes back to haunt you. The Gamecocks were averaging 13 turnovers in nonconference play.
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That number has ballooned to 18.4 in SEC play.
“We continue to work on better passing,” Staley said a day after A&M, as the Gamecocks prepared for Sunday’s game hosting Alabama. “I think a lot of it is we’re still trying to force that thing down into our post players. Some of the other ones, in transition, we’re just forcing it. It’s not there and we’re trying to make something happen, and we’re getting ourselves in trouble.”
USC has experienced success this year working the ball to bigs Elem Ibiam and Alaina Coates, but going against similar bigs such as A&M had caused problems. Passes were being knocked away, intercepted or rifled out of bounds.
Staley harrumphed when asked about the turnover epidemic. Rampant turnovers fall into the category of things that Staley never did when she played. Turnovers are a given, perhaps even expected. But this many, even for a team working its starting point guard back into the rotation, are inexcusable.
Each end of the pass spoke on Friday.
“Meeting my passes, going with two hands to the ball,” Ibiam said. “We’re all working on it.”
“Better communication is our first job with the guards,” Tiffany Davis said. “We’ve got to get the job done. We’ve got to take care of the ball.”
Despite the team returning from College Station around 2 a.m. on Friday, Staley had the tape loaded as soon as the players returned to practice. Every turnover was dissected. And the excuse of “SEC play is tougher” wasn’t being bought.
“You could say that’s part of it, but those mistakes that we’re making, they’re just really bad decisions,” Staley said. “It’s not good basketball. Maybe SEC competition has something to do with it, but for us, we’re much better than that.”