Before playing South Carolina, Louisville’s Asia Durr averaged nearly 20 points per game. She scored 10 in the first five minutes, but three for the remaining 35.
Texas’ Brooke McCarty entered the Longhorns’ game against the Gamecocks averaging more than 16 points per game. She was held to seven against USC.
Freshman guard Tyasha Harris.
“She was on McCarty most of the second half, and when it’s going that well, especially when we needed to get stops, I felt we needed to keep her in there and keep some bigger guards on their big guards,” USC coach Dawn Staley said. “She did a fantastic job.”
The rookie from Indiana, and backup to point guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore, has been the No. 3 Gamecocks’ defensive maestro the past two games, and her playing time has steadily increased. She played nearly the entire second half against Texas, all over McCarty in a game USC had trouble controlling (despite a career-high 31 points from A’ja Wilson).
As the Gamecocks prepare for a third consecutive road game, it remains likely Staley will again turn to Harris. Duke’s Rebecca Greenwell and Lexie Brown are averaging around 38 points per game between them.
“We’ve got to have everybody guarding (Greenwell),” Staley said. “Their backcourt is pretty solid.”
Harris was going to play in Staley’s rotating system, but the coaches had to switch it up in Austin, because of Alaina Coates’ foul trouble. Cuevas-Moore played most of the first half and Staley installed Harris for the second.
If Cuevas-Moore was upset – which Staley said is understandable considering the junior’s competitive streak – it had to be shelved to get the win. Harris had shut down Louisville’s Durr, the Gamecocks weren’t stopping the Longhorns, so Harris was asked to blanket another opponent.
“I kind of took it as a goal. To guard the best, you’ve got to be one of the best defenders,” Harris said of Durr. “I felt like Dawn trusted me, and I had her back.”
She locked down McCarty in the most hostile atmosphere of USC’s current three-game road swing, and could play major minutes against the Blue Devils. She should be surrounded by well-wishers (two years ago, Staley estimated that four busloads of fans accompanied the team to Durham and expects a repeat) and the knowledge that Duke, while good, isn’t nearly as good as in years past.
The Devils are still talented, though, and if they get Coates in foul trouble and eliminate half of the Gamecocks’ towering posts, they’ll be able to see the upset. Staley’s counter-move would be to take away half of Duke’s attack with Harris.
“She’s quick. I didn’t even know Ty was that quick until I saw her,” Wilson said. “She speeds people up, she gets people out of their tempo.”
Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState
Who: No. 3 South Carolina (6-0)
at Duke (8-1)
When: 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium; Durham, N.C.
Radio: 1320 AM
South Carolina’s probable starters: G Bianca Cuevas-Moore 5-6 Jr. (7.0 ppg, 1.3 rpg); G Allisha Gray 6-0 Jr. (14.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg); G Kaela Davis 6-2 Jr. (14.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg); F A’ja Wilson 6-5 Jr. (16.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg); C Alaina Coates 6-4 Sr. (14.8 ppg, 11.8 rpg)
Duke’s probable starters: G Rebecca Greenwell 6-1 Jr. (20.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg); G Lexie Brown 5-9 Jr. (17.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg); G Kyra Lambert 5-9 So. (9.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg); F Oderah Chidom 6-4 Sr. (9.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg); F/C Kendall Cooper 6-4 Sr. (5.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
Next game: South Carolina hosts Minnesota at 3 p.m. on Dec. 11.