The result was never in doubt. This was a game to try things, fix things, discover things.
“I think it was a good start,” USC coach Dawn Staley said after a 120-49 Sunday exhibition demolition of Benedict.
No. 4 South Carolina debuted six new faces on its roster (although transfers Kaela Davis and Allisha Gray were around last year) and welcomed senior Tiffany Davis back for her first game in a year and a half. The Gamecocks had five in double figures, three with at least 20 points and were led by freshman Mikiah Herbert Harrigan’s 23.
They also had 20 steals, 29 assists on 44 field goals, 12 blocks and forced 31 turnovers.
It was a complete game. But Staley won’t take too much from it except what USC didn’t do well.
No. 7 Ohio State in the season opener likely won’t be as forgiving as the Tigers.
Preseason All-American A’ja Wilson scored the game’s first points and showed no signs of rust from a summer away from the court, ending with 22 points in 24 minutes. She had a scant two rebounds, but blocked a shot with a steal, and was the clear first offensive option.
Wilson and Alaina Coates were a combined 15 of 16 from the floor. Their backup, Herbert Harrigan, is poised to play major minutes as well. She added four blocks and 11 boards to her team-high points.
“I felt great,” she said. “It’s great getting out there and playing with great players.”
Kaela Davis, the transfer from Georgia Tech, heated up in the third quarter and finished with 20 points.
She and Staley agreed USC needs to work on its defense. Davis thought it was a case of fine-tuning, but Staley provided a blanket statement.
“Defensively, we looked a little bit different than we have in the past,” Staley said. “We’ve just got to compete a little bit better on that side of the ball.”
Wilson spun and scored, then Coates sunk two free throws. That erased Benedict’s only lead (2-0) and let the Tigers know it was going to be a long afternoon.
Star of the game: Herbert Harrigan sparkled in her debut, collecting four blocks in the first half. She scored 23 with 11 rebounds and added two steals.
Play of the game: Gray set up at the top of the key and flicked a pass to Coates. Coates touch-passed to Herbert Harrigan on the block, who elevated and finished the layup.
Stat of the game: The Gamecocks had 20 steals. Eight players had at least two each.
FROM THE BASELINE
Shoot the moon: I forgot how much Gray elevates her jump shot. She was knocking dust off the banners in the rafters. But as long as it goes in, it can look however it wants.
Comin’ for you: Bianca Cuevas-Moore is USC’s point guard. But freshman Ty Harris isn’t far behind. She’s nearly as fast as Cuevas-Moore, and her vision was evident on a series of no-look passes for assists.
Some things never change: USC was 27 of 48 from the free-throw line. That’s not a surprise, since the Gamecocks have never been a great team at the stripe (they finished last year at 66.5 percent, the 258th-best mark in the country). And I can honestly say free-throw shooting hasn’t cost them a game in at least four years.
USC is hoping that streak continues.
Who: No. 4 South Carolina at No. 7 Ohio State
When: 6 p.m. Nov. 14
Where: Value City Arena, Columbus, Ohio
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