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January 10, 2013

WBB: USC hosts Vanderbilt


When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia
TV: None
Tickets: Available at the box office
Vanderbilt's probable starters: G Christina Foggie 5-9 Jr. (15.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg); G Jasmine Lister 5-4 Jr. (11.8, 3.5 rpg); G Kady Schrann 5-9 So. (8.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg); G Elan Brown 6-0 Sr. (6.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg); F Tiffany Clarke 6-0 Sr. (16.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg)
South Carolina's probable starters: G Ieasia Walker 5-8 Sr. (8.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg); G Sancheon White 5-10 Sr. (6.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg); G Tiffany Mitchell 5-7 Fr. (11.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg); F Aleighsa Welch 6-0 So. (12.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg); F Ashley Bruner 6-0 Sr. (9.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg)
Notes: Vanderbilt leads the series 21-8 but South Carolina has won three of the past four, including both games last year. … The Commodores received 59 votes in this week's AP poll, good for 27th place. … Vanderbilt once again leads the SEC in 3-point shooting while USC is first in the league in scoring defense. … White has averaged 9.0 points and 6.5 rebounds in two SEC games. … Walker is 37 points from 1,000 for her career. … USC is attempting to win two of its first three SEC games for the second time in the Dawn Staley era. … USC is No. 16 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.
Next game: USC tips off at No. 13 Georgia at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Boy, that certainly worked.

Can it work again?

"We really concentrated on catching the ball and driving it down their throats," South Carolina coach Dawn Staley off-handedly remarked on Wednesday, knowing that the latest opponent had concentrated on putting USC on the free-throw line. "When a team plays that way, you got to make them pay."

The No. 18 Gamecocks, not exactly an offensive juggernaut and definitely not a team that wins games from the free-throw line, did just that in their last game. In a victory at Mississippi State, USC's first SEC win, the Gamecocks shot a staggering 50 free throws - and a team that was the worst free throw-shooting team in the league coming in somehow made 32 of them.

Naturally, USC was grinning ear-to-ear walking out of Humphrey Coliseum after that one. A team that hasn't been great scoring was given gift after gift to score, and it was a few days after Christmas.

Tonight, when Vanderbilt, maestro of the 3-pointer, comes to Columbia, USC is hoping to keep its offense on its new track while its defense returns to the usual. The Gamecocks knew that the Commodores would throw up 3 after 3 in two games last year, and concentrated on keeping a hand in every shooter's face during the two games.

Eventually, some were going to go in. Vanderbilt made four.

Not four in each game. Four over both games, each a USC win.

"Vandy, I think, we have enough people returning to know their style of play, and what they like to do," Staley said. "They're very efficient offensively. Hopefully our defense will continue to hold serve."

USC also wants to re-assert itself on its home court, against an opponent that may not be currently ranked in the Top 25, but almost certainly will be this season. Vanderbilt is experienced and talent-rich, and will keep trying to get into its game plan of shooting 3-pointers.

The Gamecocks are countering with a four-word mantra: "Don't count on it."

"No 3-point attempts, none at all," forward Ashley Bruner said. "Our defense is one of our strong suits, so I think we can get that done."

Staley knows that her defense will be there, but she desires to keep the offense at least stable. Naturally, after the last game, it seems to be simple - pound the ball to Bruner and Aleighsa Welch in the post, and if they score, great. If not, they'll get fouled, and can make the free throws.

Nothing builds confidence like a great game, and USC is coming off a great game. The Gamecocks feel they can keep the free-throw success going, and if the game isn't called like the MSU game was (50 free throws had a lot of whistles attached), no biggie.

USC feels it can win anyway.

"We need to get in the paint, any way we can," Bruner said. "Just levels of confidence, sometimes it's low and sometimes it's high. We're going to shoot free throws, regardless. It's part of our game."

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