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November 15, 2012
SAVANNAH STATE LADY TIGERS (1-0)
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (2-0)
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia
Tickets: Available at the box office
Savannah State's probable starters: G Jasmine Norman 5-10 So. (6.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg); G Ezinne Kalu 5-8 Jr. (25.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg); G Andrietta Thomas 5-9 Jr. (13.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg); F Erin Hogue 5-11 Sr. (9.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg); F Charmaine Greene 6-1 Jr. (0.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg)
South Carolina's probable starters: G Ieasia Walker 5-8 Sr. (11.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg); G Sancheon White 5-10 Sr. (6.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg); G Tiffany Mitchell 5-7 Fr. (11.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg); F Aleighsa Welch 6-0 So. (11.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg); F Ashley Bruner 6-0 Sr. (16.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg)
Notes: South Carolina returns home after a brief one-game road trip. USC will play two straight at Colonial Life Arena before taking off for a Thanksgiving-weekend trip to the Virgin Islands. The Gamecocks are trying to become 3-0 for the second straight year under Dawn Staley. She has never been 4-0 with USC. Sophomore forward Elem Ibiam won't play tonight after receiving a blow to the head before the win over Louisiana Tech. While Ibiam is able to play, USC is being cautious and won't rush her back. USC leads the all-time series 4-0. The Gamecocks received two votes in this week's Associated Press Top 25 and 30 votes in the USA Today/ESPN Top 25.
Next game: USC hosts Clemson at 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Another game, another rout.
But South Carolina's not taking it for granted, even though an 82-58 win at Louisiana Tech drew some raves.
The Gamecocks (2-0) aren't complacent by a long shot. It's only been two games. USC, even with five newcomers, has expected to win games like that ever since crushing North Carolina last season. There's such a long way to go.
No false confidence in the gym, no way.
Coach Dawn Staley is making sure of that.
"I don't think they really understand," Staley said on Wednesday, a day before her team was about to start another brief homestand against Savannah State. "I think it's good to gain some confidence, but what we do in practice keeps them humbled. We're not playing our best basketball, and we shouldn't be at this point, but we feel very comfortable in what we're doing."
What that is is continuing to pound the ball inside to posts Ashley Bruner and Aleighsa Welch, and see what else has to be done. Bruner started the Louisiana Tech game with eight points in nine minutes, and finished with 17 despite battling early foul trouble, while everyone else contributed what they could - which was an awful lot.
The Gamecocks put five in double figures. Their 3-point shooting, a no-show against Elon (0-for-14) debuted with six from long range, including three first-half shots from Ieasia Walker and one from 6-foot-3 forward Wilka "WiWi" Montout. They continue to rebound the ball effectively and make life difficult on the opposition, recording steals on three straight early possessions against the Lady Techsters, blocking four shots and switching the ball around enough for 20 assists.
It was as complete a win as USC has ever had under Staley, but the Gamecocks are just getting started. While it may be easy to look ahead - a tournament in the Virgin Islands may prove to be a handful, but the rest of the non-conference schedule is extremely favorable - Staley thinks the mentality of her group will keep the team grounded.
"We only had two games, we can't really get too high over beating Elon and (Louisiana) Tech," said starter Tiffany Mitchell, who scored 13 points with eight rebounds against the Techsters. "We just have to take it one game at a time."
USC saw somewhat of a mirror image of itself the last time out, a team with a thin bench and youth but rising talent. Staley feels that the talent, which is already playing many minutes, will continue to blossom and by the start of SEC play, will be fully integrated into the system.
"Our players really work hard," she said. "I think we were very fortunate that we were against a similar opponent in that they're pretty young and they're still trying to find our identities, and so are we."
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