Dawn Staley on how the last week has prepared the Gamecocks for the postseason
Who: No. 12 South Carolina (16-5, 8-1 SEC) vs. Ole Miss (8-15, 2-7 SEC)
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7
Where: Colonial Life Arena
Watch: The game is not on TV but can be streamed on SEC Network Plus via WatchESPN
Radio: 1320 AM in Columbia area
Series history: USC leads the all-time series between the teams, 22-17. The last nine meetings have resulted in Gamecock wins by more than 10 points, and Ole Miss hasn’t won in Columbia since 2009.
Last meeting: South Carolina defeated Ole Miss in Oxford last season, 88-62. The Gamecocks had five players score in double figures.
South Carolina projected starting lineup: Junior guard Tyasha Harris, redshirt junior guard Te’a Cooper, redshirt senior guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore, redshirt senior forward Alexis Jennings, junior forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan
Ole Miss projected starting lineup: Redshirt senior guard Crystal Allen, redshirt senior guard Shandricka Sessom, redshirt freshman guard Mimi Reid, senior forward Cecilia Muhate, redshirt senior forward La’Karis Salter
Staying in the moment: Quite simply, this is a game that USC should win, and win handily. Ole Miss, in its first season under coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin, has a long way to go in its rebuilding project — the Rebels haven’t been to the NCAA tournament in more than a decade and rank 267th nationally in scoring margin.
In Colonial Life Arena, there’s little reason to suspect the Gamecocks won’t cruise to victory like they did against Florida earlier this season. And yet, there’s always the chance for a stunner, and Ole Miss has already surprised a conference foe at home, defeating Kentucky on its own floor, 55-49.
With a matchup against UConn looming after Thursday’s game, one might expect that this could turn into a trap game for the Gamecocks. But coach Dawn Staley said that’s not how this team operates.
“They have short memories.” Staley said of her players. “I don’t think they think too far ahead, I think they take the moment as it comes, the practice as it comes. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but as long as they stay in the moment and we don’t have to talk about any outside forces or any reason not to stay in the moment, that’s the way we’ll coach.”
Lineup re-shuffle: Staley switched things up in USC’s last game, against Arkansas, swapping senior guard Donyiah Cliney with junior forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan in the starting lineup.
That move produced mixed results — Cliney tallied just one point but collected nine rebounds, and Carolina trailed for the majority of the game before a fourth-quarter surge.
For Thursday’s contest, Staley will go back to her customary starting five of Herbert Harrigan, forward Alexis Jennings and guards Te’a Cooper, Bianca Cuevas-Moore and Tyasha Harris.
“Right now, we’re going to start who we’ve been starting, which is (Herbert Harrigan) back in the starting lineup, but it could change, because players change, situations change. I can’t predict that,” Staley said.
Getting those rings: Preceding Thursday’s game, South Carolina will receive its SEC tournament championship rings for the fourth year in a row. The ceremony will take place 30 minutes before tipoff.
Ole Miss and McPhee-McCuin are well aware of the ceremony, and she’ll likely use it as motivation for her own program. McPhee-McCuin and Staley are friends, and the Rebels coach considers her Gamecocks counterpart to be her mentor.
“(McPhee-McCuin) texted me and asked what was going on, because we’re getting our rings, and she was pretty funny in her response,” Staley said. “Other than that, I’ve talked to her from time to time throughout the season.”