David Cloninger

No Coates, no problem for versatile Gamecocks

Of course they miss her. A team doesn’t lose a 6-foot-4 land mass in the paint and not be affected.

But it’s an eventuality that Dawn Staley prepared for, even though she hoped she wouldn’t have to use it. Her team’s first option, always, is to target Alaina Coates and A’ja Wilson.

If they’re not there, well, there are a lot more options than just conceding.

“I thought we took advantage of the space that was left by Alaina Coates not being able to play today,” Staley said after Friday’s demolition of Georgia. “But we look forward to having her, hopefully, tomorrow.”

Taking advantage of the space left by a four-year all-conference player. How is that even possible?

By being aggressive on offense, driving the lane and either getting an easy deuce or getting to the free-throw line. That took away the defense sagging USC’s bigs with a zone and shutting off the interior passes.

By not settling for jumpers and 3-pointers. That knocked Georgia on its heels when shooters Allisha Gray and Kaela Davis were running at them instead of rising over them.

By running, always running. Even when sitting up top in the “weave” offense, USC didn’t run the clock down to 3 and then launch a long jumper. It would drive after the first pass or after the umpteenth, depending on the defense.

The result was a dominating victory and another look USC can show to any opponent. The Gamecocks can go big, small, intense or deliberate.

“It’s something that, maybe, we probably should have done a little bit sooner, but you don’t know,” Staley said.

She found out, and her team is benefiting.

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