David Cloninger

Harsh way to lose, but perhaps USC will be better for it

Yes, it was a bad call.

South Carolina can’t do anything about it except go to Kentucky and try to avoid situations where another bad call won’t cost it the game.

This is the reality – USC coach Dawn Staley raises Cain or sends film to the SEC or grumbles her way through a press conference talking about how one bad call cost the Gamecocks the game, and she’s telling her team to seek excuses. She didn’t do any of that, treating the situation with grace and humor and saying the Gamecocks will be ready for the No. 25 Wildcats (who also lost Monday) on Thursday.

Perhaps this team needed this. As dominant as I’ve seen it look at Ohio State and against Louisville in Springfield, I’ve seen it coast through some other games. That game at Georgia last week was as easy on my eyes as that last call against Tennessee.

There were reasons this was close, most notably the Gamecocks having foul trouble to both of their All-American posts. Yet USC was stunning to watch when A’ja Wilson left the game in the third quarter – passion, effort and determination brilliantly mixed with fundamentals for the lead.

Ditto for the comeback after trailing by nine with just over four minutes to go. Staley spoke of this after the Mississippi State win – this team can play with pride-bursting heart for 40 minutes. Her job was to find it, all game, every game for the rest of the season.

They didn’t need any extra oomph for Kentucky. That rivalry has become one of the nation’s nastiest over the past five years. They got it anyway.

Now to channel all of that gutsy bleed-to-win mentality into the next 40 minutes. And the next 40 after that.

USC has passed Tennessee as the SEC’s premier program over the past four years, although the Lady Vols got a piece back on Monday.

Maybe USC will repay it in April, by once again passing Tennessee in another place it used to own.

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