The Gamecocks are the only team that did not have a first-round bye playing in the SEC women's tournament semifinals, but that shouldn’t be a surprise.
USC is really a No. 6 seed in name only.
South Carolina won 10 SEC games this season -- a total that has never earned a team less than fourth-seed since the league expanded in 1991-92. Usually 10-win teams land a second seed.
But the league was so competitive this year -- eight of the conference’s 12 teams have a shot at the NCAAs -- that the Gamecocks got shuffled back in the seeding because of tiebreakers.
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USC had not fared all that well in the regular season against the tournament’s top-four seeds -- the ones that received byes. The Gamecocks went 1-4 versus Kentucky, LSU, Georgia and Tennessee.
South Carolina defeated one of the big four last night -- the Bulldogs -- and faces the one top-seeded team it beat in the regular season in the semifinals at 6 p.m. today -- the Volunteers.
“We finished in a position we didn’t want to,” USC guard Markeshia Grant said, “I think we’re qualified to be a one through four seed.”
But USC will have to get its perimeter game in gear after a 3-for-20 night from three-points in the 59-55 win over Georgia. That’s how the Gamecocks upended Tennessee as Grant hit seven three-pointers en route to a 27-point night in the 64-60 victory.
South Carolina has hit six three-pointers in the two games of the SEC tournament. Grant, USC’s main long-range bomber, has one.
La’Keisha Sutton, the team’s leading scorer in SEC play who has gone 6-for-23 in the tournament, said the guards have to put their poor shooting games behind them when they play Tennessee.
Grant said she expects the Volunteers to try and stop USC’s long-range game so the Gamecocks will have to mix going inside and outside.
The threat from perimeter could open some lanes to drive to the basket, said guard Ieasia Walker, who has averaged 17 points in her past three games against Tennessee.
“We’re going to keep doing whatever is working for us,” said the junior who is shooting 2-for-15 in the tournament.
Perhaps a new star will emerge in the rematch with Tennessee.
Freshman Tina Roy scored 17 points over the final seven regular-season games. The Louisiana native known for her shooting has scored 16 points in the two tournament games.
Roy hit some critical jumpers, including a momentum-building three-pointer at the end of the first half, while gathering nine points in the quarterfinal win over Georgia. She also was one of seven Gamecocks to grab at least four rebounds.
“I think the game is kind of slowing down for me,” Roy said. “I’m settling down.”