2019 is starting off on an auspicious note for the Gamecocks women’s basketball team.
Despite a finish that was a bit too close for comfort, the Gamecocks pulled out their second conference win of the season against Alabama, 62-59 (the first win was over Texas A&M on January 3).
Te’a Cooper came up huge in the final minute of the game with two key steals against the sharpshooting Crimson Tide. The play that really sealed the deal came at the hands of Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, who came out of a timeout and made a timely bucket to take back South Carolina’s lead.
Though the Gamecocks squeaked out the win and improved to 2-0 within conference play, Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley did not look pleased after the traditional end-of-game high fives were exchanged with Alabama. Perhaps it was because there was no need for the game to have gotten that close; the defense wavered in the third quarter alongside reduced shooting and in the fourth quarter, Alabama was able to take the lead, 59-57, for the first time in the entire game due to more porous defense.
Inconsistencies have plagued the Gamecocks since the beginning of the season; they’ve done well against most non-conference teams (which, let’s keep it real, usually aren’t on South Carolina’s playing level) but have really struggled against strong programs such as Baylor and Oregon State. Staley has acknowledged the team’s struggles and attributes part of this to the newly constituted team learning to play together on top of adjusting to the post-A’Ja Wilson era (and some injury recovery in Bianca Cuevas-Moore and Alexis Jennings).
Still, there are some issues that are above and beyond team chemistry, such as defensive lapses, confidence, and leadership. Two of these three (defensive lapses, confidence) are getting fixed but the third (leadership) is still a work in progress.
A 2-0 conference start that extends the Gamecocks’ win streak to six is a confidence booster but now that the upcoming slate consists primarily of conference games (as well as NCAA nemesis UConn), South Carolina is going to need to really dig in if they want to have a legitimate shot at winning not only the NCAA tournament, but also the SEC tournament.
Next up on Thursday, January 10 is a visit from the Florida Gators (0-2 conference, 4-11 overall) at Colonial Life Arena. As always, follow Garnet and Black Attack and Gamecock Women’s Basketball to keep up with team happenings. Also follow the hashtags #OwnIt and #FAMs on social media.
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