Dawn Staley kept her word, giving South Carolina a taste of Los Angeles once a win over UCLA was completed. The Gamecocks took in the sights on Monday – sophomore A’ja Wilson achieving a lifetime dream of meeting Clippers star Blake Griffin – and they dined at the home of women’s Hall-of-Famer Candace Parker. Then it was back on a plane to another beautiful locale.
There will be some swimming and surf, but Hawaii, where the No. 2 Gamecocks will play three games in three days, is a continuation of the business trip. The sights and tourism have their place, but there also needs to be some work done.
Especially after the Gamecocks played their second straight struggling game.
“We’re coming out there to yes, to have a little bit of fun, but at the same time, we want to come back undefeated,” Staley said before USC left.
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That’s becoming harder and harder to do, and with No. 16 Arizona State as the first opponent, USC is toying with some ominous signs. They are unbeaten, and the W and an outstanding night from the free-throw line could be taken from the UCLA game.
There’s a lot else that was spotlighted, and not in a good way.
The Gamecocks did what they didn’t do against Clemson, which was pound the ball inside. The problem was the ball rarely got to its intended target – USC had 21 turnovers – and if it did, it didn’t get in the hole.
Wilson was 4-of-9, missing several chippies. While Alaina Coates only missed one shot from the field, she only touched the ball seven times. Jatarie White and Sarah Imovbioh combined for two points, both on White free throws.
It all turned out fine. USC reverted to USC in the final four minutes, shooting 4-of-5 from the field and getting two UCLA turnovers. Superwoman Tiffany Mitchell donned her cape one more time, scoring six of her 17 points in the final 2:40.
It just took too long for USC to get to being USC. Again.
The Sun Devils have only played two games but USC still has some leftover scouting reports from last year’s NCAA Regional in Greensboro. The Gamecocks didn’t play Arizona State but were still preparing as if they might, right up until Florida State knocked them off.
It will be a challenge. Arizona State runs through its posts. The Gamecocks want to do the same.
“From here on out, we have to treat everybody like the UConns and the Notre Dames,” said Coates before the trip. “We have to go out there with the exact same intensity.”
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NO. 2 SOUTH CAROLINA (4-0) vs. NO. 16 ARIZONA STATE (1-1)
What: First round, Waikiki Beach Marriott Rainbow Wahine Shootout
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Stan Sheriff Center, Honolulu, Hawaii
South Carolina’s probable starters: G Khadijah Sessions 5-8 Sr. (3.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg); G Tiffany Mitchell 5-9 Sr. (15.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg); G Tina Roy 5-11 Sr. (8.0 ppg, 1.3 rpg); F A’ja Wilson 6-5 So. (14.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg); C Alaina Coates 6-4 Jr. (12.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg)
Arizona State’s probable starters: G Elisha Davis 5-3 Sr. (12.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg); G Katie Hempen 5-9 Sr. (12.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg); F Sophie Brunner 6-1 Jr. (13.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg); F Kelsey Moos 6-0 Jr. (4.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg); C Quinn Dornstauder 6-4 Jr. (14.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg)
Next game: USC tips off vs. Cal State Bakersfield at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.