South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley will aim for her No. 5 Gamecocks (4-1) to start another winning streak against her former squad, the Temple Owls (0-2), at 7:00 p.m. ET Thursday night in Columbia.
Staley, born and raised in Philadelphia, helmed her hometown university’s women’s basketball program for eight seasons, winning 172 games as head coach of the Owls. However, no feelings of fondness will dull the sense of fight Staley will seek to instill in her young Gamecocks ahead of their final non-conference contest.
South Carolina has not played since Sunday, Dec. 6, when they responded to their first loss in 29 games (against NC State on Dec. 3) by resoundingly defeating the then-No. 23 Iowa State Cyclones, 83-65.
Practice during exam week just hits different pic.twitter.com/PafuzeFsSP— GamecockWBB (@GamecockWBB) December 10, 2020
A home matchup against the overmatched Owls gives the Gamecocks an opportunity to further round into championship-caliber form, especially on the offensive end of the floor.
In the loss to NC State, South Carolina’s offense was unorganized and out of rhythm, managing to score just 46 points. As an exasperated Staley noted, “You give up 54 points, you’re supposed to win. I don’t know the last time we scored 46 points.”
Against Iowa State, South Carolina’s offense was of championship quality. In particular, the Gamecocks found their 3-point shot, hitting 50 percent of their attempts from behind the arc. Sophomore guard Zia Cooke drained four of the team’s 13 threes; Brea Beal and Destanni Henderson each swished three treys.
With opponents likely to prioritize preventing Aliyah Boston from overpowering them in the paint, South Carolina’s perimeter players frequently should find open shots from deep. If they sink them consistently, Staley should not have to worry about any more 46-point performances.
Yet, more than 3-point proficiency, Staley wants to see smart offensive decisions, emphasizing:
Our players are processing ... is that a good shot, is that a bad shot? And that’s a valid question and those are questions which I love and embrace and encourage, because that’s an appetite for learning. And that’s what we’re here for, is to teach them how to actually not just play the game (but) to master the game.
Staley will be pleased if South Carolina’s many young stars put these principles into practice in what should be a dominant victory against her former team.
No. 5 South Carolina Gamecocks (4-1) vs. Temple Owls (0-2)
When: Thursday, Dec. 17, at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, SC
How to watch: SEC Network
What to watch for: Time for Aliyah Boston to have a breakout game? By no means is the 2019-20 National Freshman of the Year suffering from a sophomore slump — she is averaging 11 points and 9.8 rebounds through five games. But she has yet to burst out for a big scoring night. With the Owls lacking an experienced player with the size to battle her, Boston should go to work inside, sharpening her post game before the start of SEC play.