The Lady Gamecocks put up an admirable fight for most of the game, but the Stanford Cardinal took over in the second half en route to a relatively comfortable 76-60 win. Nekka Ogwumike led all scorers with an incredible 39 points, while La'Keisha Sutton led Carolina with 18.
The Gamecocks came to play in this one, getting after it on defense and the offensive glass. However, we simply didn't have an answer inside for Ogwumike, who had her way with us almost every time she got the ball. There was some hope early in the second half, when Ogwumike picked up her third foul, that we'd be able to get her into foul trouble. However, the fourth foul never materialized, and Ogwumike proceeded to complete one of the best games of her illustrious career.
This game shows what the Lady Gamecocks need to take the next step. Without an elite center, or at least a good one who can go toe-to-toe defensively with players like Ogwumike, we're going to have trouble moving from the category of good teams to the elite category occupied by the Stanford's of the world. Dawn Staley had hoped that Kelsey Bone would be that player, but things didn't work out with Bone, who will lead her Texas A&M Aggies today against Maryland. Needless to say, this game might have been much different had we had Bone on our side, and Staley is undoubtedly searching for her next shot at a player like that as we speak.
That said, this team has nothing to be ashamed of. It took a great step forward with its play in the tournament. We lose some key players going into next season, so there may be a transitional period ahead, but given the way Staley has built this program, I have no doubt she'll have us back in this position in no time.