The Daily Gamecock

Column: Four-headed offensive attack presents catch-22 to opposing defenses

With transfers Kaela Davis and Allisha Gray taking the floor this season, South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley gets to roll out four players who are 6-foot or taller in her starting lineup every night this season. Even better, Davis and Gray, who were All-ACC selections at Georgia Tech and North Carolina respectively, are playing alongside All-American bigs A'ja Wilson and Alaina Coates, two of the best players in the country.

Teams have a tough enough time preparing for the high-low game of Coates and Wilson, but adding a pair of lethal scorers on the wings has made the Gamecocks impossible to stop, and difficult to even slow down. Davis and Gray combined for 61 points in South Carolina's season-opening 12-point win over No. 7 Ohio State in their first game under Staley. 

Now, the Gamecocks have added another impressive win, manhandling No. 4 Louisville 83-59 at a neutral site to improve to 5-0. The attack was more well-rounded against the Cardinals, as Coates, Wilson and Gray finished with 17 points, while Davis had 13, as the quartet outscored their opponents by themselves. Not to mention freshman Mikiah Herbert Harrigan joining them in double figures with 11. 

There's really not a lot that opposing defenses can do to stop South Carolina. Coates and Wilson are combining to shoot just under 65 percent through five games, so it makes sense to collapse down low, as Louisville did in the first half. That strategy only works if the Gamecocks can't hit outside shots though, as the All-American bigs have the height and vision to find open teammates at the three-point line. 

Tiffany Mitchell and Tina Roy aren't knocking down jumpers from the wings anymore, but Davis is knocking down 50 percent of her attempts from deep. Also, while Gray and Bianca Cuevas-Moore have struggled in the early part of the season from beyond the arc, defenses have to respect them as capable shooters. 

So what do you do? If you've got the size to handle 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-5 All-Americans, you end up in man coverage and sag off some of South Carolina's weaker shooters on the wings. If not, you're forced to bring extra defenders to force a miss from Coates and Wilson or get the ball out of their hands.

But you're not out of the woods even if you get an initial miss. The Gamecocks are averaging 15.2 offensive rebounds per game, while they allow 20.2 defensive rebounds per game to their opponents. When South Carolina misses on offense, the ball is back in the Gamecocks' hands 42.9 percent of the time.With Coates, Wilson and Herbert Harrigan patrolling the paint, the ball generally ends up in the bucket right away, shown by the team's 20 second-chance points against Louisville. 

The Gamecocks have four players who could score 20 points on any given night, not to mention capable scorers in Herbert Harrigan and Cuevas-Moore. With two wins over elite competition, both coming by significant margins, South Carolina has proven to give even the best teams fits with its offense.