The result of South Carolina women’s basketball’s win over Savannah State on Sunday was never really in question — the No. 4 Gamecocks have beaten the Lady Tigers by 18 points or more for the past seven seasons.
But the game was still notable, as USC backcourt continues to be hammered by injuries. And while Dawn Staley’s team emerged with an impressive 99-38 win, it also came out with just three completely healthy available guards.
As a result, fans got to see a little of what Staley says she wants her team to do more of heading into SEC play and eventually the postseason -- position-less basketball.
Leading that charge is, of course, senior forward A’ja Wilson. Wilson began Sunday’s game playing on the wing instead of her usual spot at the power forward position. The 6-foot-5 Wilson towered over Savannah State’s guards and used her height to create open looks from a range she’s never really played at before.
All told, Wilson took 16 total field goal attempts -- 12 2-point jump shots, two 3-pointers and two layups.
“I was really nervous. The wing is kind of not my area,” Wilson said after the game. “But to have (freshman forward Lele Grissett) down there for me to expand my game out to the 3, I think that’s something good, that’s something that I’ve really been trying to work on. I finally got that 3 that everyone’s been waiting on. I did kind of miss the block. I was like, just put me in at the four, I miss that spot. But just to have the opportunity for Coach to trust me in that area, I think that’s a good thing.”
Wilson has now attempted five 3-pointers in 11 games this season, making two. In her first three years of college, a total of 105 games, she had taken just three shots from long distance, making one. After the Savannah State game, sophomore guard Tyasha Harris jokingly referred to her as “PG Wilson,” but according to Staley, there’s more than a hint of truth to that joke.
“We’ve been getting A’ja more reps at the guard position, because we knew coming into the season anyway that we had a lot of post players so we had a lot of moving parts when it comes to post play,” Staley said. “Seeing how A’ja’s really excelled out there on the perimeter, it gives us more versatility to use her in a lot of different places. We played her at point guard (Friday) in practice. We’re prepping for hopefully being just a more versatile basketball team as we continue.”
And Wilson was not the only post player to make plays outside of the paint Sunday. Redshirt junior Alexis Jennings took five jumpers out of seven total shots, and sophomore Mikiah Herbert Harrigan launched seven out of 10. South Carolina finished with 50 of its 99 points in the paint, its lowest ratio in that department since redshirt senior guard Lindsey Spann, the team’s best 3-point shooter, injured her knee.
“Once they start collapsing on us or packing it in, we know that we can always kick it out to our guards and they’ll knock down the shots as well. Also, Alexis and I, and all our of post players, have that opportunity to shoot that 15-footer and expand the defense,” Wilson said.
Tyasha Harris is no bench player
Harris’s streak of 36 consecutive starts came to an end Sunday, but she still posted her second career double double, recorded a new career high in assists (12) and tied her career best for steals (6). According to Staley, she won’t be coming off the bench in the future.
“No. No, we need her in the lineup,” Staley said when asked if Harris might regularly be a spark off the bench.
Sophomores set career highs
In addition to Harris, sophomores Mikiah Herbert Harrigan and Victoria Patrick both put together career games against Savannah State.
Herbert Harrigan scored 21 points on seven made field goals and seven free throws, all numbers that set or tie career bests for her. She did it all in just 21 minutes of play.
Patrick shot nine 3-pointers, making two for a career-high six points. She also tied a personal best with 21 minutes on the floor.