USC Women's Basketball

USC suspended two stars in NCAA opener. Here’s the plan moving forward

Gamecocks advance in tournament without Bianca Cuevas-Moore and a lot of Mikiah Herbert Harrigan

The University of South Carolina Gamecocks beat Belmont to advance in the NCAA regional.
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The University of South Carolina Gamecocks beat Belmont to advance in the NCAA regional.

They weren’t needed for South Carolina’s easy first-round NCAA tournament win over Belmont, but their absence from the floor still had Gamecock fans asking — where were Bianca Cuevas-Moore and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan on Friday?

The senior guard and junior forward both rank in the top five on the Gamecocks in minutes per game, both have started more than 15 games and both warmed up and looked healthy during the pregame activities at Halton Arena.

But neither played for the first half of USC’s blowout 74-52 win. Herbert Harrigan only entered the game with 3:09 left in the third quarter, when the outcome already seemed certain, and Cuevas-Moore didn’t play at all.

Afterward, coach Dawn Staley confirmed that she held the pair out — Herbert Harrigan for a half, Cuevas-Moore for a game — for an unspecified violation.

“I decided not to play them for a half and for an entire game,” Staley said.

“Did something happen? Obviously something happened. I’m just not gonna divulge that information,” Staley later said.

As Carolina’s attention now turns to Sunday’s game against the winner of No. 5 seed Florida State and No. 12 seed Bucknell, Staley seemed to indicate the players had served the extent of their punishment, while leaving open the possibility of more discipline if necessary.

“As for now, we’re going to keep moving, keep moving in this direction. I don’t know. If you work with young people, things can happen any day, any second, so ... I’m gonna tell you guys what I told them in the locker room. I’ve moved past my decision not to play them — Kiki in a half and Bianca Cuevas an entire game — so we’re moving forward as if we got everybody,” Staley said.

Both Cuevas-Moore and Herbert Harrigan called the move a “coach’s decision” and declined to elaborate on the reasons.

“It wasn’t much,” Herbert Harrigan said of her conversation with Staley. “She just said Kiki, get your mind right, because you’re not going to play in the first half.”

In the eight minutes she did play, Herbert-Harrigan was extremely active, scoring five points, pulling down two rebounds and blocking a game-high three shots.

“My mind was prepared. I knew I wasn’t going to play, so I just knew in the second half, when my number was called, I just had to go out there and do what I do and be confident in myself,” Herbert Harrigan said.

Asked whether her play could serve as an example to younger players to stay locked in, Herbert Harrigan demurred.

“Everyone on this team knows ... it’s a coach’s decision. So once she makes the decision, when your number is called, you just have to go out there and do what you do and just, while you’re on the bench, pour all your energy and give it to your teammates, give it to somebody else.”

Greg Hadley is the beat writer for South Carolina women’s basketball and baseball for GoGamecocks and The State. He also covers football and recruiting.

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