The No. 1 seed South Carolina Gamecocks are facing off against the No. 1 Stanford Cardinal on Friday night for a spot in the 2021 NCAA women's basketball National Championship.
The two teams last met in the 2017 Final Four where the Gamecocks walked away with a 62-53 win and a spot in a title game that they went on to win. Four Garnet Media Group student leaders share their keys to the game:
Michael Sauls, Co-Sports Editor of The Daily Gamecock
The Gamecocks are going to have to get going early if the team wants to beat Stanford tonight. Stanford has four different players that shoot above 50% from the field so they'll need to start out fast on the offensive end so they don't fall behind the Cardinal offensive attack.
On top of a fast offense, South Carolina will need to continue to play well on the defensive side of the ball. Freshman forward Cameron Brink leads the Cardinal in shooting percentage, shooting 57% from the field this season, but her status for tonight's game is in the air according to Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer on Thursday morning. If she's healthy, sophomore forward Aliyah Boston will have to remain solid down in the post, to limit her offensive capabilities.
Overall I think that if South Carolina is able to remain vigilant on defense, they'll live to play again on Sunday for a chance at their second National Championship.
Faith Worrell, Co-Sports Editor of The Daily Gamecock
Looking to the Final Four tonight, South Carolina will need to get an early offensive start paired with continual physicality on defense in order to win. This matchup of two No. 1 teams will come down to whoever is able to execute better and limit their mistakes.
The Gamecocks are coming off an impressive finish to their Elite Eight game, shutting out Texas for the entire fourth quarter. If the Gamecocks bring that energy and effectiveness into tonight, that will fuel the offensive momentum for South Carolina.
Leading scorer for Stanford, Kiana Williams is going to be a key player South Carolina will need to stay on top of. Shutting her down will eliminate a key aspect of the Stanford offense, but according to head coach Dawn Staley, the Gamecocks are looking to disrupt the system of Stanford’s offense, not just any individual player’s.
The Gamecocks have only made 15 3-pointers all tournament in comparison to Stanford's 50, so it will be important that South Carolina limits Stanford's shooting options while focusing on finding offensive opportunities.
Kendall Smith, SGTV Station Manager
Let me make one thing clear, the 2020-2021 South Carolina women's basketball team is not the 2017 National Championship team. Tonight, they should not be held to that expectation.
Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley talked yesterday in her press conference about the competitiveness of her squad this season, saying that this team is more competitive than her 2017 team. Tonight, as South Carolina takes on Stanford, a win for the Gamecocks comes down to the fire, grit and competitiveness that they showcase during their play.
Sure, it is essential that the Gamecocks lock down on defense. It is also important that South Carolina shows up early on the offensive side of the ball, but what will drive the team to succeed in this game is the mindset and attitude of the team.
If South Carolina stays dialed in, steps onto the floor with pep in their step and plays a complete four quarters of basketball, the chances of the team's return to a National Championship are strong.
Cade Crenshaw, SGTV News 4 Sports Director
The biggest key to the game is going to be the play of sophomore forward Laeticia Amihere. We talk about Boston, sophomore guard Zia Cooke and sophomore guard Brea Beal etc., all the time when it comes to being an "X factor."
I have a feeling tonight that will be Amihere.
Not only with her offensive input but also defensively; she's going to have to attack the board and grab offensive rebounds. She had nine blocks in the second half against Texas in the Elite Eight after she started the game off poorly with two fouls in the first three minutes. The way she was able to respond to her rough start just shows how she can be the X factor.
She has been counted out because of her injuries, but she hasn't given up, and I think that gives her the mental edge she'll need to perform at a high level tonight.