What does a coach say after her team routs a third straight opponent, but had some sloppy moments getting to that point?
Same as the game. A lot of good with some bad.
"There was a little lapse," South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. "It always seems to come when we substitute, just from the adrenaline from starting the game. The starters are really into the game. People that are coming off the bench, it's taking them a little bit longer to make the adjustment coming off the bench."
The Gamecocks out-classed Savannah State 78-47 on Thursday, improving to 3-0 for the second straight year under Staley and setting up a shot at a first - Staley can improve to 4-0 at USC for the first time with a win on Sunday. USC again monstrously owned the boards, with a 50-26 rebounding advantage (and a perfect 25-25 split between offensive and defensive), and placed four in double figures, led by Aleighsa Welch with 13 points.
But there were too many lulls, too many breaks from what the Gamecocks want to do, that had Staley stop short of heavily complimenting a 31-point win.
"Our team was really buying into what the game plan was," Staley said. "The magic trick is for us to do it for 40 minutes. We had a lot of lapses in which we didn't make adjustments. We didn't make adjustments in the middle of the game."
USC jumped to a 16-2 lead, allowing the overwhelmed Lady Tigers (1-1) just two points (both on free throws) in the first eight minutes. The Gamecocks, as they have in their first two games, worked the paint early, although Ieasia Walker scored the game's first points by sinking a 3-pointer when her pass to Ashley Bruner was passed back out.
The game was in hand, and Staley liberally substituted, giving freshman backup Khadijah Sessions quite a few minutes at point guard in relief of Walker. Sessions did well, but when Bruner and Welch sat down, USC's offense did, too.
The Gamecocks began passing around the perimeter and seldom got open looks, as Savannah State regrouped and began to hit its shots. Walker came back in but had a case of fumble-itis, and the Tigers began to add transition buckets to the scoreboard.
The game was never in doubt - once the lead hit 20 points, it never fell below it - but Staley wasn't pleased with the sagging lapses. But, it's a part of playing such a young roster.
"They have to play," Staley said. "We're trying to get them more minutes every time out. At some point, they're going to be in a game in which they need to play for us. I don't think they're there yet, but they're not where they were. Slowly but surely, we're progressing."
Welch had a double-double, finishing with 12 rebounds, and Bruner also had 12 boards to go with eight points. Walker had 10, along with Tiffany Mitchell, while Asia Dozier drained three 3-pointers and scored 11.
USC had 18 assists to 12 turnovers, the same number of TOs it forced, but only one block and four steals. Conversely, the Lady Tigers, with no player over 6-foot-2, had five blocks and six steals.
"I think we were playing undisciplined basketball," Welch said. "We weren't buying into the game plan. I don't feel like it was offensive or defensive, it was just a matter of not sticking to the game plan.
"We were kind of letting things fall apart. That's definitely one thing we're going to have to work on, to stick to the game plan to maintain a big lead like that."
In the end, another huge win. USC (3-0) has won its first three games by an average of 29.3 points.
And the elusive 4-0 can be gained, with an opponent that all Gamecocks are ordered to beat coming to Colonial Life Arena. Clemson and USC tip off at 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Staley's hoping that the could-be fourth is much cleaner than the third.
"Considering I still remember us winning 10 games in the first year, we'll take any win, any day, any time," Staley said. "Always special if it's Clemson."
DAVIS HURT: Freshman Tiffany Davis left the game with 4:22 to play with a right knee injury. She was very upset on the floor, and was helped off the court, at first putting no weight on the leg but then walking on it as she disappeared into the locker-room tunnel. Staley said that team physician Jeff Guy was calling it a sprain, and also said that Davis told Staley before she left the floor that she was practicing on Friday.
If Davis is out for any length of time, it shortens an already thin bench. The Gamecocks were without sophomore forward Elem Ibiam for the second straight game on Thursday, as she recovered from a blow to the head before the Louisiana Tech game (she was able to play, but sat as a precaution). Sophomore Tina Roy tore her ACL in August, and if she returns, it won't be until late in the season (she has been lightly practicing). Ibiam is expected to be ready for Clemson, but if Davis cannot play, USC will only have nine players.