Dawn Staley previews South Carolina’s road matchup with Duke
Who: No. 22 South Carolina (5-4) vs. Duke (6-3)
When: 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9
Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, North Carolina
Watch: Streaming online on ACC Network Extra via WatchESPN
Radio: 107.5 FM in Columbia
Series history: South Carolina and Duke have played six times in the programs’ history, with Carolina leading the series 4-2, including a 3-1 mark under Dawn Staley and a 2-1 record in Durham.
Last meeting: The Gamecocks raced by the Blue Devils last season at home, with USC taking an easy 72-52 win.
‘Practice’ 3s: After draining 14 3-pointers against Appalachian State this Wednesday, South Carolina is now set to face a team that lets opponents take 3-pointers at one of the highest rates in the country.
The key to continuing the Gamecocks’ success beyond the arc lies in what coach Dawn Staley calls “practice 3s” — shots that resemble the ones USC takes in training when players are away from the pressure of games and under the guidance of coaches.
“The way (we’ll be consistent) is, it’s the type of 3s that you take. If we take practice 3s, we can knock them down,” Staley said. “If we’re rushed, we’re like everybody else across the country that won’t be able to hit those difficult shots.”
The way to ensure players take such shots is mostly muscle memory and watching film of games like Wednesday, when Staley loved her team’s ball movement and shot selection.
“It’s good to make those shots, but it’s also good as far as showing them on film what they good ones look like when they go in, our body makeup, our technique, our ability to not be rushed in certain situations,” Staley said.
So what do those shots look like to the players?
“Having our feet set, running in transition and ... not just jogging down the court. Really being there ready to shoot and not force shots,” redshirt junior guard Te’a Cooper said
“Just expected 3s. Threes we that we know we’re gonna shoot and rebound,” junior guard Tyasha Harris said.
Holding off Odom: Duke’s biggest threat in the paint is Leaonna Odom, a former top-10 recruit who has significantly improved her scoring totals this season as one of the Blue Devils’ top returners and main weapons. The 6-foot-2 forward is averaging 15.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game on 56.9 percent shooting.
“Huge challenge,” to contain her, Staley said. “We had a difficult time stopping her last year. She’s big, she’s long, she’s a leaper, she’s got a great first step.”
In last season’s game, Odom only went for six points, but she did tally three blocks, showcasing her ability to impact the game on both sides of the floor. If there’s one area where South Carolina won’t have to worry about her, though, it will be on the perimeter — Odom has attempted just four 3-pointers in her career and has made none.
“We gotta get that first dribble under control and hopefully contain her from there,” Staley said.
Taking over Cameron: With a relatively short drive up to Durham, South Carolina fans have made a habit of swarming Cameron Indoor Arena whenever the Gamecocks have played there in the past few years, turning one of the most legendary hostile environments in college basketball into at least a little friendlier place.
A snowstorm in the forecast may put a damper on turnout this year, but Staley said the program has booked three busloads of fans to drive up the day of the game.
“I guess we’ll make sure the buses have their snow tires,” Staley said.
Regardless, Cameron Indoor will be a new, unique environment for nine of the Gamecocks’ 13 players.
“I’ve seen a lot of games. ... I’ve been there, I just haven’t played there,” Cooper said.
One of the few returners from two years ago, Harris, recalled the gym as a tough place to play.
“It’s dark, it’s small. The crowd’s right over you as you take the ball out of bounds, so we just gotta stick with the gameplan.”
South Carolina projected starting lineup: Junior guard Tyasha Harris, redshirt junior guard Te’a Cooper, redshirt senior guard Donyiah Cliney, redshirt senior forward Alexis Jennings, junior forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan
Duke projected starting lineup: Redshirt junior guard Haley Gorecki, freshman guard Miela Goodchild, senior guard/forward Faith Suggs, freshman forward Onome Akinbode-James, junior forward Leanna Odom
South Carolina key stats: Even without A’ja Wilson, South Carolina continues to be one of the best teams in the country in two categories where the former All-American specialized — blocking shots and drawing fouls. The Gamecocks rank in the top 20 nationally in each category. ... SC hasn’t had a player lead the team in scoring in her first year of competition in Columbia since Valerie Nainima did so in 2009-2010. Te’a Cooper, who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, is currently leading the Gamecocks with 14 points per game.
Duke key stats: Australian freshman Miela Goodchild ranks third in the ACC this year in 3-point percentage, at 47.5 percent. She’s making 2.11 3s per game and leads a 3-point attack that’s shooting 35.5 percent so far this season. South Carolina’s 3-point defense, meanwhile, ranks 284th in the country. ... Duke is averaging more than 20 turnovers per game so far this year and ranks 305th in the country in that statistic. On 24 percent of its possessions, Duke turns the ball over. ... The Blue Devils are 36-2 at home since the beginning of the 2016-2017 season. Their only two losses in that timeframe came to teams that would later advance to at least the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament.