Dawn Staley’s young Gamecocks learned another valuable lesson in Sunday afternoon’s narrow 60-55 loss to No. 5 Tennessee.
“We played a good 37 minutes, but to beat a team like Tennessee, you have to play a full 40,” she said.
The Gamecocks blitzed the Lady Vols from the opening tip, jumping out to a 13-2 advantage at the first media break.
“We started the game really well,” said Staley. “We played off being in an exciting atmosphere.”
However, Tennessee’s experience helped them settle into the game in the second half and the teams began trading baskets for much of the second half. South Carolina would stretch their lead to as much as six points before Tennessee would claw back to within one or two.
“We knew this would be a real test for our team on the road today,” said Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt. “Coach Staley’s done a great job with this program.”
Tennessee tied it with 2:47 left and then took the lead for good with two minutes to play. The Gamecocks struggled to score at the end, missing three field goals and three free throws.
“We’ve got young players who’ve never been in that type of situation before,” said Staley. “Sometimes when you get that close, you start thinking instead of just reacting and playing. You have to execute at the end.”
Despite the loss, the team can take away positives to build on for the rest of the season and the future.
“This is the best team, as far as in wins and losses, in our conference,” said Staley. “If we can clean up the last three minutes of the game, we’re goin to win a whole lot more games left in this season.”
South Carolina’s leading scorer La’Keisha Sutton said the lessons of Sunday will carry on past the sting of the loss.
“It feels bad right now, but overall it was a good game,” she said. “We did a lot of good things and we came together as a team today. That’s all that matters.”
Junior guard Valerie Nainima said the Gamecocks need to apply these lessons at the next opportunity.
“We’re still learning from these types of experiences,” she said. “We just have to take back what we learned today for the next close game.”
Key Box Score
|Total FG-FGA||3 pt FG-FGA||FT-FTA||Rebs||Pts||Assts||TO||Blk||Stl||Min|
|G La’Keisha Sutton||7-12||3-3||2-4||2||19||3||5||0||1||38|
Sutton was an offensive presence all afternoon – hitting outside shots and driving inside. The sophomore guard had her best offensive output in SEC play this season, scoring 19 points. Her previous high in SEC play this year was a 15-point effort against Florida.
- Bench scoring was a key factor in game as Tennessee’s bench contributed 32 points. South Carolina’s bench scored 6.
- The Gamecocks handed out 12 assists today. South Carolina lost for just the 3rd time this season when they dish out more than 10.
- Seven of South Carolina’s 10 losses have come to ranked teams.
- Sutton led the Gamecocks in scoring for the third time this season and the 12th time in her career.
- Nainima scored in double digits for the 20th time in 21 career games.
“We played a good 37 minutes. But to beat a team like Tennessee, you have to play a full 40.” – Dawn Staley