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January 13, 2013

WBB: Gamecocks travel to Georgia



NO. 18 SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (14-2, 2-1 SEC)
at
NO. 13 GEORGIA LADY BULLDOGS (14-2, 2-1)

When: 1 p.m. today
Where: Stegeman Coliseum, Athens, Ga.
TV: CSS
Tickets: Available at the box office
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)
Georgia's probable starters: G Jasmine James 5-9 Sr. (12.6 ppg, 3.0 rpg); G Jasmine Hassell 6-2 Sr. (11.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg); G Khaalidah Miller 5-9 Jr. (10.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg); G/F Anne Marie Armstrong 6-3 Sr. (7.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg); G/F Shacobia Barbee 5-10 Fr. (5.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
Next game: USC hosts LSU at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

If it was stunning to watch as a spectator, think what it must have been like for the bench. Dawn Staley must have been wishing that she had some kind of a magic Xerox machine, to copy what was happening and save it for every remaining first half in the season.

South Carolina, a team that struggles to score, couldn't miss.

"It was great to see," Staley said after her No. 18 Gamecocks sprinted past Vanderbilt 64-48 on Thursday. "Even if it was only for one half, we let our players know that it was truly an impressive half for us."

Shot after shot went down, USC hitting 15-of-26 (57.7 percent) from the field and 4-of-6 from the line. Every player on the roster but freshman Khadijah Sessions scored at least two points and three players had eight each.

USC stroked six straight from the field, and after Ieasia Walker and Wilka Montout drilled back-to-back 3-pointers, the Gamecocks led 29-12. USC never had to worry afterward and finished shooting 48.1 percent for the game.

The focus immediately switched to keeping the hot streak going. It could come in handy today, as the Gamecocks (14-2, 2-1 SEC) attempt to make their winning streak three games when they travel to No. 13 Georgia.

A hot start against a Georgia team that is third in the league in scoring offense can only help. With USC's usual vicious defense, the Gamecocks are hoping to get a lead and hold onto it.

"When you can get those first couple of shots to fall, it just seems like it rattles down to the entire team," forward Aleighsa Welch said. "We were able to maintain that same high level of play throughout the whole game, which has been kind of hard for us this whole season."

USC hasn't had a consistent offense all year but has managed to create a lot of points from its defense, which again was evident against Vanderbilt. Against Georgia, which has a lot of the same type defenders as USC, points may be hard to come by.

That's why it was important for the Gamecocks to show that they could score up and down the lineup in the previous game. It gave confidence to the players, and to the coach, who could afford to play her four substitutes liberally.

Elem Ibiam played 13 minutes and scored nine points, including four in a short stretch in the first period. Asia Dozier played 20 minutes, and while she only had two points, she attacked the lane to get them instead of camping on the 3-point line. Montout had three points and two rebounds in eight minutes while Sessions scored four, all on free throws.

"We've been really trying to get some production from our bench," Staley said. "It came at a good time. Elem came in and gave us some good minutes, some good buckets. Wi-Wi hit a 3, Asia's coming on. I think our players really feel like they're in a good groove now."

Which is paramount to keeping it going. By the time USC laces up its sneakers for its next game, hosting LSU on Thursday, classes will have re-started. The Gamecocks won't have the luxury that they had of the past two weeks - multiple practices, free time to work on any individual parts of the game, the entire team available at once instead of staggering in at odd times.

The routine will change, but Staley is hoping that the result won't. The Gamecocks found out what they need to be successful and were able to work on keeping that criteria first in their minds during the games over the break. Having it there as the season progresses through the SEC season could have a direct bearing on the team's success.

"It's unfortunate the break is over and we don't get enough time to get back in the gym and do some extra stuff like we did over the break," Staley said, "but hopefully they can bottle it up and use it throughout the rest of the season."

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