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March 22, 2013
VIDEO: Friday practice
VIDEO: Friday practice
BOULDER, Colo. - After practicing twice in it, 17th-ranked South Carolina has to say
Not impressed, or intimidated.
"I thought coming in, because I always get tired during the games, I was thinking, 'Oh man, the altitude is going to kill me,' but I didn't feel it," forward Ashley Bruner said on Friday, just before the Gamecocks were set to practice for the second time at the Coors Events Center. "And none of our girls passed out, so that was good, too."
The concern was that USC (24-7) was not going to have any time to adjust to the high altitude in Colorado, a natural occurrence that has caused a lot of teams to be sucking wind by the middle of the first half in the past. While Saturday's opponent, South Dakota State, and low seed Kansas will also have to play in it, home team Colorado would naturally seem to have an advantage.
But USC arrived on Thursday and practiced, and practiced again on Friday, and there was no noticeable lagging or reaching for the extra Gatorade. USC has tried some preventative measures, telling its players to constantly hydrate, and while it has only been practice, coach Dawn Staley feels that the constant buzzword will barely be a post-it note by tipoff on Saturday.
"I don't think it is going to be a factor," Staley said. "We just need to concentrate on the things that we do well. That is to go out and exhaust ourselves. We exhaust ourselves anyway, whether it be an altitude factor or not. We are going to play the way we need to play."
USC hasn't been a great shooting team all season, ranking No. 205 in the NCAA in scoring offense, but its defense has been so lethal that not shooting the ball well has barely mattered. It has been the culprit in the seven games the Gamecocks lost, but they also won 24 games with the same kind of production.
No, this team lives on its defense, getting fast breaks and putbacks, ranking first in the SEC in rebounding margin. South Dakota State coach Aaron Johnston was heavily wary of the Gamecocks' rebounding prowess on Friday, saying that a team doesn't have to shoot the lights out if it gets three or four cracks at the basket on every possession.
USC is planning to bring the same energy it's brought all season - and on the ride to the Sweet 16 last season - to its game on Saturday and however long it's in the tournament. The Gamecocks don't plan to let a little thing like altitude stop them.
"It still feels like we have a lot left in our season, which is a good thing," guard Ieasia Walker said, "because we're trying to keep it going as long as possible."
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