South Carolina head women's basketball coach Dawn Staley and sophomore forward Laeticia Amihere spoke to the media via Zoom on Thursday afternoon to discuss South Carolina's upcoming Final Four matchup with No. 1 seed Stanford on Friday.
One thing that both Staley and Amihere discussed was the team's mindset going into the Final Four.
"Obviously it feels a lot different, you know. It feels a lot more confined," Staley said. "Yet it feels like a Final Four. I only see three other teams, the signage around here, the signage at the hotel, I only see three other teams. That makes it special."
Amihere said the Gamecocks are "obviously" excited to be in San Antonio for the Final Four.
"We're here now, and just being able to look back on a season, all the hard work you've put in. You've got to trust in that and when you work as hard, as hard our team does, you feel ready for these moments," Amihere said.
Amihere was recently named to All-Regional Team for the Hemsifair region of the bracket, along with sophomore forward Aliyah Boston, sophomore guard Zia Cooke and junior forward Victaria Saxton.
"I think it's just proven my testimony," Amihere said. "It's been a rough couple of years, but I think I just stuck strong and kept in my faith. I think that really helped me get to the point where I am right now."
One key player the South Carolina defense will have to handle in order to defeat Stanford is sophomore guard Haley Jones. Jones is No. 2 on the team in points per game with 12.7 and shoots 53% from the field.
"I think Haley Jones is — wears many hats for Stanford that impact the game. Her ability to play 1-4, her ability to score, her ability to make great basketball plays, her ability to be an unselfish player that sometimes gives up a good shot for a better shot," Staley said. "I'm sure she's very happy to be able to come back from an ACL injury and play and contribute in this way and add to Stanford's remarkable season."
When it comes to Stanford as a team, Staley said the Gamecocks have to concentrate conceptually during their preparation for the game.
"You cannot look at it as the depth of Stanford," Staley said. "You can't look at it as, they're going to spread you out, and you can't look at the cumulative stats, and you can't look at how many three's they make. You have to look at what you need to do to disrupt that, and that's how we're approaching it. We have to have major disruption and let the chips fall where they may."
Staley said the team will have to increase its pace on offense and play fast in order to get the edge on Stanford.
"We have to push. We have to try and get some early scores," she said. "If they're able to shoot their average in threes and be as efficient as they are with twos, it's going to be a long night for us."
Staley went on to say that she was thankful South Carolina was still in the bubble.
"I hope I'm confined for another four days because this is the pinnacle of our game. This is what we practiced, sacrificed for, what we cried for, what we worked for, and if it doesn't feel like a Final Four, you're in the wrong place," Staley said. "There's nothing more sweet than to be here and to be able to compete for a National Championship."