In a game with a neck-to-neck second half, the No.7 South Carolina women's basketball team held off the Florida Gators long enough to get the 64-57 win in front of a booming crowd at Colonial Life Arena on Sunday afternoon.
With the U.S. National Team in attendance as well as some notable stars in the WNBA, such as Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury, head coach Dawn Staley was able to instill tactics that she saw in the national team’s abilities into her players to help them continually succeed.
“We were a little tired against Alabama, but I thought we were pretty good today,“ Staley said. “We got rejuvenated. I think it helped to have the US National Team here so they can see. And I talked to them a little bit about that after this game ... Our players get so dejected when they miss a shot, or when they turn the ball over. If you ever see that happen with [Team USA], they turn the page quickly cause they know the game is so fast, you can get it back.”
Following two big losses to UConn and Mississippi State, and then rebounding and getting the win against Alabama, this win against Florida was needed for the Gamecocks.
“Right now, I think it’s a great thing,” Staley said on her team reaching 20 wins. “I didn’t even realize that ... I’m looking for how we’re playing. If we’re playing well, the wins are going to accumulate ... I think we’re a 20-win program, especially with having someone like A’ja on the team.”
A'ja Wilson once again did what she needed to do and led the team with 22 points, including making a jumper at the buzzer to tie the game at 30 going into the half. As the Gamecocks have seen, Wilson can't win these games on her own. Since the team is now shorthanded, others must step up. Doniyah Cliney and Tyasha Harris did that on Sunday, as Cliney finished with 12 points and Harris finished with 18.
“We’re a team in which we have to lean on A’ja, but then when she gets exhausted, the next person that has experience is Doniyah and she’s really not used to being in that position," Staley said. "Everybody just has to do their job, and when everybody can do their job, we will be a really good basketball team.”
The Gamecocks will head to Athens, GA on Thursday to face the No. 18 ranked Georgia Bulldogs. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on the SEC Network.