They were winning, so what was the problem?
Nothing, really. Just … well …
There was undefeated South Carolina, and South Carolina not looking like the undefeated South Carolina of last year.
The No. 2 Gamecocks beat some very strong teams on their way to a 12-0 non-conference start, but they hadn’t really showcased that domination, that killer instinct that was so prevalent last season. Despite Dawn Staley saying every week since practice began that this year’s team wasn’t last year’s team, many didn’t listen and thought, “Hey, they did it once and have most everybody back. They should be doing it again!”
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It’s not that simple, and has required a few adjustments. But the Gamecocks continued to win, and that was the main goal.
“You learn a lot about your team every time you step on the floor,” Staley said Wednesday. “Especially with this basketball team, where we’ve played great at times, we’ve played sub-par at times, we’ve played ugly at times.
“You can’t take for granted playing each game. For this team, we just try to focus on us, focus on getting better as a unit, this particular team this year.”
It was all designed to get to a point like last year.
It might have been reached.
The Gamecocks turned a 9-9 first-quarter tie into an 85-32 hammering of Arkansas in their SEC opener, displaying the carve-’em-up mentality they had so often last year. The first stanza was a prelude to the most complete game USC has played all year.
Unmerciful and displaying all the talent at its disposal, the Gamecocks picked off turnovers, rained 3-pointers and unleashed every bit of their devastating talent. It might have been worse except Asia Dozier was out for precautionary reasons.
“It felt good,” sophomore A’ja Wilson said. “That’s something that we really kind of harp on – not having that slow start. We’ve been practicing on that.”
As preparation for Thursday opponent, Vanderbilt, began, the focus was on keeping it going. Dozier will return, and Doniyah Cliney will fmake her college debut after sitting out last year and the first half of this year with a hand injury.
The Gamecocks are complete in terms of personnel. Now they’re looking for more of the Arkansas game.
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NO. 2 SOUTH CAROLINA (13-0, 1-0 SEC) at VANDERBILT (11-3, 0-1)
When: 9 p.m. Thursday
Where: Memorial Gymnasium, Nashville, Tenn.
TV: SEC Network
South Carolina’s probable starters: G Khadijah Sessions 5-8 Sr. (5.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg); G Tiffany Mitchell 5-9 Sr. (14.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg); G Asia Dozier 6-0 Sr. (4.3 ppg, 1.0 rpg); F A’ja Wilson 6-5 So. (17.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg); C Alaina Coates 6-4 Jr. (13.1 ppg, 9.1 rpg)
Vanderbilt’s probable starters: G Christa Reed 5-11 So. (11.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg); G Minta Spears 5-10 Jr. (5.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg); G Jasmine Jenkins 5-8 Sr. (8.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg); G Rachel Bell 5-10 So. (10.2 ppg, 1.2 rpg); F Rayte’a Long 6-0 Sr. (4.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg)
Next game: USC hosts No. 20 Missouri at noon on Sunday.