VIDEO: Friday practice
VIDEO: Friday practice
(4) NO. 17 SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (24-7)
(13) SOUTH DAKOTA STATE JACKRABBITS (25-7)
What: First round, NCAA tournament
When: 4:10 p.m. today
Where: Coors Events Center, Boulder, Colo.
Tickets: Available at the box office
South Dakota State's probable starters: G Ashley Eide 5-9 Sr. (13.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg); G Gabrielle Boever 5-8 So. (7.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg); G/F Megan Waytashek 6-0 So. (13.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg); F Leah Dietel 6-1 Sr. (6.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg); F Hannah Strop 6-0 Jr. (4.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg)
South Carolina's probable starters: G Ieasia Walker 5-8 Sr. (9.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg); G Sancheon White 5-10 Sr. (4.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg); G Tiffany Mitchell 5-9 Fr. (9.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg); F Aleighsa Welch 6-0 So. (12.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg); F Ashley Bruner 6-0 Sr. (10.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg)
Notes: South Carolina begins its second straight NCAA tournament. … South Dakota State is making its fifth straight tournament appearance. … The first meeting between the two teams. … USC is fourth in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 49.5 points per game. … A win ties last season's overall win total. Coach Dawn Staley has improved her overall and SEC win totals in every year she has been at USC (11 SEC wins this year over 10 last year). … USC is 10-9 in the NCAA tournament all-time, while South Dakota State is 1-4, including three straight first-round losses. … The Jackrabbits are 4-0 against the SEC since moving to Division I before the 2004-05 season.
Next game: The winner plays the No. 19 Colorado-Kansas winner at 9:30 p.m. on Monday.
BOULDER, Colo. -- They're familiar with each other, because each scouted each other last year. South Carolina and South Dakota State were assigned to the same four-team NCAA tournament pod in West Lafayette, Ind., last season, but never met after the Jackrabbits lost to host Purdue in the first round and USC beat Eastern Michigan before beating the Boilermakers.
It's only familiarity, though. So much has changed. This year, the No. 17 Gamecocks (24-7) and the Jackrabbits (25-7) are relying on what they've been able to find out from a week's worth of tape.
Which is the same on both sides - play your game, and the rest should fall into place.
"They're well-coached, hard-nosed, gritty," coach Dawn Staley said on Friday, as her Gamecocks finished their second practice in the rare air of Colorado. "They can hit 3s, they can drive to the basket, they're a pretty good rebounding team. We should be really challenged. I think it's going to come down to us being able to knock down shots."
Staley could have been talking about anybody USC has played this year. The Gamecocks' defense has been so powerful and dominant that its offense has been able to survive a lot of inconsistency. In the SEC, there haven't been a lot of easy games, especially over the past eight contests, which USC split.
There's no real scouting off the old report for South Dakota State. The Jacks don't have a go-to player, getting contributions from everybody on the floor. They're not the same kind of offense as last year, after losing 3-point specialist Jill Young, but they have the same attitude, perhaps doubly so - a mid-major that's been to several tournaments and wants to make this the year that it has success.
USC is standing in the way. Coach Aaron Johnston recognized the challenge that his team faces today.
"They're coming around, getting deflections, and then they're really relentless on the offensive glass," Johnston said. "Our leading offensive rebounder, Leah Dietel, who we think is pretty good, had about 60 offensive rebounds. That's our leader. They've got two players - one over 100, and another at 90 - they rebound just about as well as any team we've played.
"They're just relentless, defensively, at going to the glass. Those are the things we've talked about this week."
USC's game depends on rebounding, on each end. The Gamecocks don't shoot well enough to put the fear of God into anybody. What makes them difficult is all of the second-chance points they get. Then on defense, they guard so aggressively and limit teams to one shot that they've only allowed four opponents to score 60 points or more.
USC just can't allow any team to get its offense going, especially a team with a "big girl" in the middle. The Jacks don't have that, their tallest topping out at 6-foot-2, but if they get in a rhythm, they can be tough to stop.
Then again, South Dakota State knows that USC is built toward that one moment, where it causes a turnover, gets a fast break, then does it two or three more times in succession. That's the Gamecocks' greatest strength - even when it ends, they know that their defense will be good enough to stall any hope of a comeback.
"Offensively, we are going to have to move the ball pretty well because they are so disruptive," center Katie Lingle said. "We need to cut hard and play to our strengths. We have to play our game and not really so much about what they are doing, so much as what we can do."
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