Well, last night was interesting, wasn’t it?
I’ve already gone on record for saying that the foul call on Tyasha Harris with five seconds to go in a 72-72 ballgame was just lousy. Repeated replays show Tennessee’s Jaime Nared tripping on her own accord (which should have been called a travel) and minimal, at best, contact by the South Carolina freshman. Of course, Nared made both of her free throws, and the Lady Vols would leave Columbia with a 74-72 upset victory.
But rewind the tape long before that. I had an uneasy feeling that this would probably turn out Tennessee’s way, because despite their record, they’re a very good basketball team. Holly Warlick will always be coaching under Pat Summitt’s shadow, but whoever they brought in after Summitt’s retirement wouldn’t match the success she had at Rocky Top.
With that said, the Gamecocks were due for this loss. Their slow starts/slow spells throughout games, coupled with rough outside shooting and a failure to neutralize the inside presence of other teams, came to a head on Monday. Against Tennessee, the Gamecocks were outscored in the paint 38-26 and were just 5-14 from outside the arc. Sure, part of that is due to the fact that Alaina Coates and A’ja Wilson were saddled with foul trouble at various points of the game, but this is a different team than the one that was blowing teams out with regularity last year. I’m not taking anything away from the performance the Lady Vols put in last night (they’d beaten two top 25 teams already). It’s just that the signs of a group coasting a little and failing to put together a full 40-minute effort finally came to a head. They’d gotten away with it in past contests; they couldn’t do the same on Monday.
Carolina has road games at #25 Kentucky and Arkansas coming up and a home game against Auburn before heading up to Storrs to face UConn on February 13. There’s no reason they can’t sweep the Wildcats, Razorbacks and Tigers going into the matchup against the Huskies, where they’d have had nothing to lose anyway. The key is for Dawn Staley and the team to set last night’s events aside and position themselves at the top of the conference heading into the SEC and NCAA Tournament. Good teams use adversity to get better; let’s see if the Gamecocks can do the same.