When asked what he sees from No. 18 South Carolina, Bill Brock immediately began with what has been built in the last five years in Columbia, S.C.
“They won a national championship two years ago,” the Baylor associate head coach said. “... The thing about South Carolina is that when you go in there, you better be able to handle the environment, because they led the NCAA in attendance last year. And not by just a little bit, by almost 3,000. And they play off their crowd. I think it’s going to be a great test for our kids.”
Along with the national title in 2017, the Gamecocks have also brought home four SEC regular season titles and four SEC tournament titles to go with three Elite Eight appearances in the last five years.
Key to that success has been South Carolina’s success at home inside Colonial Life Arena. The Gamecocks — who ranked No. 1 last year in attendance with 13,239, a total that is more than 3,000 more than second-place UConn’s mark of 10,026 — are 131-30 at home during the Dawn Staley era and have lost just five times in their last 85 home games.
“I think it’s great that we get a game like this in before conference starts,” senior Kalani Brown said. “We got a little bit of it early with Arizona State. So, I think we’re more prepared and more relaxed and I think our freshmen know how to handle a road game from dealing with the Arizona State game. So, I think we’re going to be a little more relaxed and try to be more poised.”
These two coaching dynamos face off Sunday night.
While the Lady Bears will have to deal with the environment, the fourth-ranked team in the country matches up well with a Gamecocks squad that is more guard heavy than its been in recent history. And because of all of those guards, South Carolina likes to get out and run in transition.
In an attempt to quantify just how fast these Gamecocks are, they’re averaging 64.9 field goal attempts per game. That’s well above South Carolina’s average of 57.2 attempts per contest during Staley’s time at the helm of the program.
“Transition defense is a big, big concern of ours,” Brock said. “They have a lot of good perimeter players, and I think when you have that much quickness and that much speed, that’s always going to be a concern is transition defense. So, we’ve got to get back, but we don’t want to take away from the fact, too, we’re a pretty good rebounding club, too.
“I think us having to stop their transition defense and keep their perimeter players in front of us defensively is a big, big key to the game.”