South Carolina has done all it can. It’s up to the voters now.
The second-ranked Gamecocks won their second convincing game of the week with a 89-38 trouncing of San Diego State on Sunday afternoon at Colonial Life Arena. They will find out Monday if the voters in the AP Poll were impressed enough to land the program its first No. 1 ranking.
“I don’t think we worked to be No. 1 in the country, but we’ve worked to be No. 1 as far as the end of the year,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “It helps build milestones. It will be something we’re proud of but not something we’ll hang our hats on. It’s part of our journey. We’ll take it but we’re not going to play for No. 1 (now). We’re trying to play for that in March and April.”
The Gamecocks (3-0) get their crack at the school’s first-ever No. 1 ranking in woman’s basketball due to the fact that last week’s top team, Connecticut, lost to Stanford last week. The Cardinal were No. 6 in the poll, but any hope they had of leapfrogging the teams in front of them ended after a loss to No. 10 Texas on Thursday.
Notre Dame, Tennessee and Texas A&M were the other teams in the top five last week. Each of those teams were undefeated this week while South Carolina won its two games by a combined 109 points.
Staley isn’t sure if the Gamecocks should earn the top ranking, but she likes the way her team has improved in the first three games of the season.
“I saw the UConn-Stanford game; I saw the Kentucky-Baylor game,” Staley said. “I don’t know what else is out there. I think it’s unfair for me to answer (if they should be No. 1), because I only know us. I know the good, the bad and ugly of us. I don’t know if we always practice like the No. 1 team in the country. I don’t even know what the No. 1 team in the country practices like. I just see it from a critic standpoint. I think we’ve put ourselves in a position to be in the conversation. We’ll find out (Monday).”
San Diego State coach Stacie Terry, an assistant coach at LSU from 2011-2013, came away more convinced than Staley.
“We just got beat by the No. 1 team in the country in my opinion,” Terry said. “It’s been fun to watch Dawn grow this program. I was at LSU when they weren’t what they are today. What I love about Dawn and respect about her is she gets her young ladies to play extremely hard on top of the wonderful recruiting they’ve done here. Again, this is the No. 1 team in the country.”
Tiffany Mitchell was a perfect 6-for-6 on 3-pointers and paced the attack with 20 points. Freshman A’ja Wilson added 15 points as the Gamecocks had four players in double figures. Bianca Cuevas added 11, and Alaina Coates chipped in with 10 points.
“I was pretty confident coming into this game,” Mitchell said. “I felt good with my shot today.”
San Diego State (1-3) led 6-5 early, but the Gamecocks went on a 33-2 run to take control. Wilson came off the bench for the second game in a row to spark the run. The heralded freshman scored nine points in a little less than three minutes, and her layup capped a 14-0 spurt in which she and Mitchell scored every point.
South Carolina forced 14 turnovers on the Aztecs’ first 20 possessions and turned many of those into easy baskets, holding a 27-0 advantage on points off turnovers in the first half. San Diego State ended the first half with as many turnovers as field goal attempts – 19 – and went nearly 13 minutes without a field goal.
“We tried to keep them on their heels and made it hard for them to read us,” Mitchell said.
In the second half, South Carolina limited the Aztecs to 28.6 percent shooting (14-of-49) and finished with 18 steals, part of 29 Aztec turnovers.
Freshman Kaydra Duckett was not in uniform after injuring her ankle in the win over Clemson on Thursday.
Next, South Carolina will play Wisconsin in the Junkanoo Jam in Freeport, Bahamas, on Thursday. On Friday, they will face the winner of East Carolina and Syracuse.
SAN DIEGO ST. (1-3)
Hunter 0-6 0-0 0, Culberson 1-5 0-0 3, Harvey 1-5 0-0 3, Johnson 1-2 0-0 2, Amarikwa 4-9 1-4 9, Smith 2-4 0-0 4, Fort 1-7 1-2 4, Thorderson 1-6 0-0 2, Greenhouse 1-3 2-2 5, Brandon 2-2 0-0 6. Totals 14-49 4-8 38.
SOUTH CAROLINA (3-0)
Gaines 0-2 0-0 0, Sessions 2-5 2-3 6, Welch 3-6 0-0 6, Mitchell 6-8 2-2 20, Ibiam 1-3 2-2 4, Farmer 0-0 1-2 1, Cuevas 4-6 2-2 11, Davis 0-3 0-1 0, Wilson 5-9 5-6 15, Roy 2-7 0-0 5, Dozier 2-3 0-1 5, White 3-5 0-0 6, Coates 5-8 0-1 10. Totals 33-65 14-20 89.
Halftime: South Carolina 51-16. 3-Point Goals: San Diego St. 6-14 (Brandon 2-2, Greenhouse 1-1, Fort 1-1, Harvey 1-3, Culberson 1-3, Thorderson 0-4), South Carolina 9-19 (Mitchell 6-6, Dozier 1-2, Cuevas 1-3, Roy 1-4, Sessions 0-2, Davis 0-2). Fouled Out: None. Rebounds: San Diego St. 33 (Amarikwa, Culberson 6), South Carolina 40 (Wilson 9). Assists: San Diego St. 8 (Fort 4), South Carolina 25 (Cuevas 5). Total Fouls: San Diego St. 19, South Carolina 7.