1. Play well in the paint
Mississippi State has a pair of towering centers in 6-foot-5 senior Chinwe Okorie and 6-7 sophomore Teaira McCowan. Without the injured Alaina Coates, A’Ja Wilson is the only real inside presence for the Gamecocks. The junior pulled down 19 rebounds in the national semifinal game against Stanford and will need another strong performance on Sunday. In order to do that, she must stay out of foul trouble.
2. Get Kaela going
Kaela Davis had been exceptional in the NCAA Tournament – until Friday night. The junior was 2-for-15 from the floor against Stanford and finished with six points and three rebounds. South Carolina will need production from Davis against the Bulldogs, but it doesn’t just have to be scoring. USC coach Dawn Staley said Saturday Davis can impact the game in other ways when her shot isn’t falling, and can’t get discouraged if she isn’t making shots and let that affect other parts of her game.
3. Slow down Morgan William
Mississippi State junior guard Morgan William is playing with a ton of confidence. She scored 41 points in the Elite Eight win over Baylor and followed that by making the game-winning shot in overtime against UConn. William is a smaller, shifty guard who can score by driving past her defender, pulling up for a jump shot or knocking down a 3-pointer. Staying in front of her will be key.
4. Make jump shots
Stanford crowded the paint in the first half and dared anybody other than Wilson to beat them. The Gamecocks had players step up in the second half, including Allisha Gray. If the Gamecocks can knock down mid-range jumpers early, it will give Wilson room to operate in the post.
5. Stay composed
Wilson admitted to being frustrated by Stanford’s physical play, and Mississippi State will try to frustrate USC, as well. Playing on the big stage, USC has to keep its nerves under control to cut down the nets. The crowd will also likely favor Mississippi State as the Bulldogs had a big home-court advantage Friday against UConn.