With the nation's top-ranked prep prospect on hand, the Lady Gamecocks (currently ranked tenth in the AP poll) defeated Kentucky (ranked ninth) this evening in Columbia, 68-59. The Gamecocks had a 20+-point lead at one point in the second half before taking their foot off the gas. Among the notable performers for the Gamecocks, freshman Alaina Coates, one of Dawn Staley's recent recruiting triumphs, notched a double-double with 10 points and an eye-opening 17 rebounds.
While the Gamecocks offense performed well in the game, this was principally another good example of Staley's calling card, stifling defense. The Lady Gamecocks held Kentucky, typically an offensive juggernaut, to just over 30% from the field. Perhaps most impressively, the Gamecocks blocked 14 shots, with Coates blocking four and Elem Ibiam six.
Perhaps the biggest news of the night was that Hopkins product A'ja Wilson was on hand to watch the contest. Wilson is 2014's top prospect, and she's considering the hometown Gamecocks alongside storied programs such as Tennessee, Connecticut, and North Carolina. Wilson got a glimpse of what she could be a part of if she stays home to play for Coach Staley. USC currently looks like a solid Sweet 16 contender, if not better. Staley has a great story to sell to Wilson, who very well may be the final piece that will transform this team into a Final Four-quality club.
The win brings the Gamecocks to 15-1 on the year. With a very forgiving schedule over the next few weeks outside of a game at Texas A&M, it's quite possible USC will be 23-1 and sporting a top-five ranking when it heads into an end-of-season stretch that includes games against several formidable teams. This is gearing up to be an exciting season of Lady Gamecocks basketball, and I'd encourage everyone to tune in for the sport that may be most likely to bring our university its next major national championship.