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January 8, 2012
WBB: USC heads to Florida
VIDEO: Dawn Staley
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (13-2, 2-0 SEC)
FLORIDA GATORS (11-4, 1-1)
When: 2 p.m. today
Where: Stephen C. O'Connell Center, Gainesville, Fla.
Tickets: Available at the box office
South Carolina's probable starters: G Ieasia Walker 5-8 Jr. (7.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg); G La'Keisha Sutton 5-8 Sr. (8.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg); G Markeisha Grant 5-6 Sr. (10.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg); G Courtney Newton 5-9 Sr. (0.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg); F Charenee Stephens 6-0 Sr. (5.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg)
Florida's probable starters: G Jordan Jones 5-9 Sr. (13.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg); G Jaterra Bonds 5-7 So. (9.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg); G Lanita Bartley 5-6 Sr. (9.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg); F Jennifer George 6-0 Jr. (13.9 ppg, 10.1 rpg); C Azania Stewart 6-4 Sr. (5.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg);
Notes: South Carolina begins a stretch of four road games among the next five. Freshman Aleighsa Welch, after scoring a career-high 19 points against No. 24 Vanderbilt the last time out, leads the SEC with a 67.5 field-goal percentage. USC has beaten Alabama and Vandy while Florida beat Ole Miss and lost to Kentucky. Dawn Staley has yet to beat Florida at USC, but did beat the Gators while she was at Temple. Staley has beaten everybody in the SEC but Florida and Tennessee while at USC. The Gators lead the series 20-8 and have won five straight. Jones was a USC player under former coach Susan Walvius. USC has yet to commit more turnovers in a game than any opponent.
Next up: South Carolina tips off at LSU at 8 p.m. on Thursday.
They didn't look past No. 24 Vanderbilt, so why would they look past anyone now?
South Carolina's only concentrating on what's ahead, which is at 2 p.m. today at Florida. The records are nice, the records that could be are nicer, but even after today, there are 13 games left. Far too many to be counting on or planning for anything.
"We talked about Vanderbilt and the great job of executing the game plan, but we've got to bottle that up and take it on the road," coach Dawn Staley said on Friday. "Florida's much like us. We've got to stop them in transition and got to take care of the boards."
At 2-0 in the SEC for the first time in 10 years, the Gamecocks (13-2) are streaking with a chance to add to it today. A win over the Gators (11-4, 1-1 SEC) matches the last best start in program history (2002-03, 14-2) and the last eight-game winning streak in program history (2003-04). It also keeps USC in line to match the last four-game SEC winning streak in program history (2001-02).
Some national voters have already chimed in after the Gamecocks beat the Commodores, saying that USC will be in the new Top 25 on Monday. A win over Florida won't hurt that, obviously, but a loss to the Gators may.
Still, the records and polls don't matter anywhere near as much as simply winning the game. The Gamecocks are playing confidently, believing in a defense that is so confusing that opponents never know where a hand will appear, and its offense is coming in a variety of ways.
Freshman Aleighsa Welch currently leads the league in field-goal percentage and is coming off a career-high 19 points against Vanderbilt, which paced an off night from leading scorer Markeisha Grant. She received a lot of help from forward Charenee Stephens, who scored the first bucket of the game and didn't back down after.
USC's defense held the country's best 3-point shooting team to one shot from long range. It's second in the nation in scoring defense, and with the guards always capable of breaking loose, the Gamecocks' offense can come at a team in a variety of ways.
The Gators, though, have their own run of good play going. They beat Ole Miss by four points and only lost to Kentucky by three, and have won the last five straight against USC. Former Gamecock Jordan Jones always seems to save her best for her old school, like a game last year where a shot with 16 seconds to play defeated USC.
With another road trip to LSU on tap, starting the away portion of the schedule is as important as starting with SEC wins at home. USC has another chance to strengthen its resume and keep a stellar year going.
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