The Daily Gamecock

South Carolina back on the road against Charlotte

Staley makes her return to Charlotte

South Carolina gets back into action Sunday against the Charlotte 49ers (4-4) after a six-day break.

Still undefeated on the season with a record of 8-0 and a top-10 ranking in the coaches’ poll, the Gamecocks are coming in with a lot of confidence, sporting the nation’s third-best scoring defense and the SEC’s second-most efficient scoring offense.

The 49ers, on the other hand, have struggled so far this season, particularly on offense; they rank among the NCAA’s worst in scoring.

However, they’ve been a tough team at home, and coach Dawn Staley said she believes the 49ers are going to come out ready to play.

“They’re going to challenge us. They do play well at home. They’re pretty quick and athletic,” Staley said. “I think a lot of their strengths are our strengths.”

Looking to extend the team’s flawless record, sophomore Tiffany Mitchell, like her coach, seemed determined to make sure the team doesn’t get complacent.

“No, I don’t think we would let that happen and get a big head,” Mitchell said. “It really is just a number, and at the end of the day, we still have to play the game.”

This game also carries special meaning for Staley, who was born and raised in Charlotte; she said she’s looking forward to going home.

“Yeah, I’m excited, getting to play in front of a lot of family that haven’t seen me play in a long time, so it’ll be cool,” Staley said.

The Gamecocks’ defensive effort this year has been superb, especially on the interior, which is anchored by prized recruit Alaina Coates, who is third among freshman in the SEC in scoring. Juniors Elem Ibiam and Aleighsa Welch have also combined for 22.8 rebounds per game and 40 blocks on the young season.

Staley, though, said she is cautiously optimistic about their success so far.

“I don’t think we’ve really been tested in a lot of ways to see where it stands … for the most part we’ve been holding serve on that side of the ball,” Staley said.

The Gamecocks only have one active senior on their entire roster, with most of the work being done by underclassmen, who account for over 97 percent of the team’s scoring output.

The young players have yet to make a whole lot of mistakes either, with a 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio, which is good enough for sixth best in the country.

But Staley said she still sees room for improvement.

“I think we need to keep continuing to get better pounding the ball inside against teams that play zone,” Staley said.

In fact, Staley pointed to Ibiam as the most crucial part of their offense but offered a critique; Staley’s looking for her to become a more dominant post presence.

“I think El has got to get a little bit better with holding her man off. We’ve got to get better at giving her the ball in those situations, because she hasn’t really performed, looking at her stat line,” Staley said. “She’s got to give us a little more in that department, because I know she’s capable.”


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