The No. 7 South Carolina women's basketball team will begin its quest of winning back-to-back SEC Championships this weekend.
Before traveling to Greenville, head coach Dawn Staley discussed the upcoming conference tournament on Wednesday.
After losing out on the opportunity to compete for a national championship due to COVID-19, last season was "so much different than this year," Staley said.
"This year, we're finding that everybody's playing a different role for us," Staley said. "It's a little bit different than what we left off at, but we just had a lot of room to grow in those players. Although our record doesn't indicate the improvements that have been made over the year, there have been improvements from all of our players."
Heading into the tournament, Staley said she does not know what to anticipate, though her team feels "very comfortable" playing in Greenville.
"We've had some successes in Greenville, and we're hoping to add to those successes," she said. "Certainly, we got a tall task in front of us that our players are embracing that challenge."
In the Gamecocks' last regular season game, it lost to No. 2 Texas A&M, resulting in losing out on the top seed in this week's tournament. Despite coming up short on four occasions this season, Staley said the team has learned that it beat itself in those games.
"We beat ourselves with our inability to execute offensively and be deliberate," Staley said. "It just compounds what we need to do in those situations. And also, just from the very start, I find that we take a little bit longer to adjust in bigger games rather than going out and being the aggressor ... When we are the aggressor, it's worked out for us."
With the potential of playing three games in three days, she said to win the SEC Championship, "we have to rest our starters and not load them up" and "be more conscious of that in the moment."
"Hopefully throughout the course of the games, we can afford ourselves to give everybody a blow," Staley said.
The SEC women's basketball awards were released on Tuesday and despite putting together a solid season, junior guard Destanni Henderson did not make the first or second All-SEC team. Although Staley said it was a surprise, she still has high-praise for Henderson.
"It's kind of hard to believe that the assist leader in the SEC conference in this particular year is not on one of those teams," she said about Henderson being snubbed. "More times than not the assist leader of our league is on one of those two teams."
When discussing the team's issues with efficiency, Staley made a promise that "we're going to look like a different offensive basketball team come Friday night."
The Gamecocks will play the winner of the Alabama/Missouri game in the SEC Quarterfinals on Friday at 6 p.m. The game can be streamed on the SEC Network.