South Carolina's road trip to Athens to take on the 22nd-ranked Bulldogs could have been a trap for the Gamecocks, but the game turned out to be little more than a tuneup for next week's No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown at UConn. Georgia kept things within reach for about the first 10 minutes of the game, but Carolina spent the last 10 of the first half roaring to a 30-14 halftime lead. Carolina then coasted to victory in the second half, winning 58-35.
As the final score suggests, Carolina put on a defensive clinic in this game, holding UGa to 20.7% from the field and 10.5% from beyond the arc. As those numbers suggest, Carolina didn't let Georgia get much penetration in the game, and the Dawgs had to settle for a lot of contested three pointers. Not many of those fell. Georgia did get a lot of offensive rebounds in this game, but that's par for the course when you consider how many outside shots the Dawgs missed. No Dawgs finished in double figures scoring. You can't play much better defensively than the Gamecocks played in this game, particularly on the road against a solid opponent.
While watching the game, I paid close attention to the play of Carolina frosh PG Bianca Cuevas. Cuevas has been playing a bigger role for Carolina lately, and that continued to be the case tonight. On a night when the Gamecocks post players were a bit sloppy (A'ja Wilson and Elem Ibiam combined for 11 turnovers and both fouled out), the Gamecocks needed a little more than usual from the guards, and Cuevas came through with another good performance. She shot 7-14 from the floor, including 2-4 from downtown, for a team-leading 16 points. She particularly caught my eye on one play when she faked drive and then pulled back and drained a three.
Cuevas's emergence has helped the Gamecocks transition from being an elite team to one that may be untouchable most night for all but the very best teams in the nation. Luckily for those who want to see just how good Dawn Staley's team really is, USC is traveling to UConn next week to take on the second-ranked Huskies. This is the most anticipated regular-season game the Gamecocks have ever played. Stay tuned over the weekend for more coverage.