Nobody likes to lose, but if it had to happen, it happened at the right time.
South Carolina, which tumbled to No. 6 in the AP Top 25 and out of the top five for the first time in over two full seasons, has spent the past week regrouping and recharging after losing at Duke. There was reason for fatigue, after crisscrossing the country from Ohio to Massachusetts to Texas, but the Gamecocks weren’t accepting that as an excuse.
They played lousy defense and lost the game. End of story.
“It was across the board,” junior Kaela Davis said. “It wasn’t guards, it wasn’t posts, it was South Carolina.”
Dawn Staley has said all season that the defense needed work, but it was hard to really get the team to buy into making it better because it was winning. With a loss to reflect on, and no game immediately after to get back to winning, the past week has yielded a heavier burden than the usual exam break.
Now it’s time to see if it paid off. The Gamecocks (6-1) resume their season against Minnesota (7-3) Sunday to begin a three-game week-long homestand, also featuring its rivalry game and another Top-10 opponent.
“I think we just got to get back to the basics and do things that need to get done for us to be successful,” Staley said. “I just thought it was a breakdown of it all. I think we have to make it a priority.”
Defense has been the focus since the Gamecocks know they can score on anybody, in a variety of ways. But it’s also been about having the defense help the offense, guarding the ball on the perimeter and using length to create turnovers.
USC was doing that early against Duke, with Davis, Allisha Gray and Bianca Cuevas-Moore doing a superb job of switching on and off Lexie Brown and Rebecca Greenwell. What they’re looking for is 40 minutes of that against the Golden Gophers, and in each game the rest of the season.
Armed with the sour taste of a week after a defeat and a scouting report from assistant coach Fred Chmiel (Minnesota assistant, 2014-15), USC re-takes the court on Sunday.
“We just really let them take their team and overlook us. Watching that, we’re not going to let that be an issue,” Davis said. “It’s nothing that’s going to put us back. It’s not like last year, where you lose and you’re done.”
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MINNESOTA (7-3) at NO. 6 SOUTH CAROLINA (6-1)
When: 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 107.5 FM
Minnesota’s probable starters: G Gadiva Hubbard 5-9 Fr. (15.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg); G Carlie Wagner 5-10 Jr. (20.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg); G Kenisha Bell 5-9 So. (16.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg); F Joanna Hedstrom 6-1 Sr. (3.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg); C Jessie Edwards 6-3 Jr. (7.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg)
South Carolina’s probable starters: G Bianca Cuevas-Moore 5-6 Jr. (7.3 ppg, 1.4 rpg); G Allisha Gray 6-0 Jr. (14.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg); G Kaela Davis 6-2 Jr. (14.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg); F A’ja Wilson 6-5 Jr. (17.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg); C Alaina Coates 6-4 Sr. (13.9 ppg, 10.9 rpg)
Next game: South Carolina hosts Clemson at 7 p.m. on Thursday.