The Lady Gamecocks' season came to a heartbreaking end this evening with a hard-fought loss to the Kansas Jayhawks. The game was close throughout, and the Jayhawks deserve kudos for a gutsy performance, particularly on the offensive end, where Kansas shot 46% to our 38%. KU's Monica Engelman was the star of the game with 27 points.
While KU shined on offense, the Gamecocks struggled. We had our chances. Carolina forwards Aleighsa Welch and Ashley Bruner dominated the offensive glass, helping the Gamecocks take nine more FGA than KU. However, Bruner, especially, struggled to score the ball when she earned the opportunity. The Gamecocks also shot very poorly from the free-throw line.
The loss cost Carolina its 26th win, which would have been the most for the program since joining the SEC. It's doubtful, though, we would have beaten that. Kansas now has the unenviable task of taking on one-seed Notre Dame, a dominant team that would have probably done to us more or less what Stanford did last year.
To take the next step and put ourselves out of the reach of the Kansas's and into competition with the Notre Dame's, Dawn Staley needs to recruit more elite players. Not that it was Staley's fault, but it was unfortunate that we were unable to sign Xylina McDaniels last year. Hopefully, 6'4 forward Alaina Coates can be a difference-maker when she comes in next year. Coates is the 26th-best player in the country according to ESPN's rankings. These are the kinds of players we need to take the next step, from good to elite.