Dawn Staley wants South Carolina’s ‘progressing’ post game to take more shots
Who: No. 22 South Carolina (4-4) vs. Appalachian State (5-3)
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5
Where: Colonial Life Arena
TV: Streaming online on SEC Network Plus via WatchESPN
Radio: 107.5 FM in Columbia
Series history: South Carolina owns an 11-4 edge over Appalachian State all-time, including a current six-game win streak. Most recently, the Gamecocks defeated the Mountaineers in 2011 at home, 67-54.
South Carolina projected starting lineup: Junior guard Tyasha Harris, redshirt junior guard Te’a Cooper, redshirt senior guard Donyiah Cliney, redshirt senior forward Alexis Jennings, junior forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan
Appalachian State projected starting lineup: Redshirt senior guard Madi Story, redshirt junior guard Ashley Polacek, sophomore guard Tierra Wilson, sophomore forward Lainey Gosnell, junior center Bayley Plummer
South Carolina notes: South Carolina is off to its worst start since the 2010-2011 season, but all four of its losses have come to ranked teams, including three in the top 10. ... Despite its .500 record, USC has a positive scoring margin of 8.5 points, tied for 102nd nationally. ... The Gamecocks remain one of the nation’s best at blocking shots even without program record-holder A’ja Wilson, checking in at No. 4 in the NCAA so far this year.
Appalachian State notes: App State is averaging 43.9 rebounds per game this season, good for 35th in the country, and South Carolina has struggled with a negative rebounding margin so far this season. Mountaineers center Bayley Plummer ranks 22nd nationally in boards per game with 11.3. ... Since the beginning of the 2017-2018 season, Appalachian State is 3-17 on the road. ... After a record-setting season last year from 3-point range, App State is averaging more than 21 3s per game this year, but making them at just a 27.2 percent rate, 277th in the NCAA.
Battling inside: In preparation for App State’s strong interior game, South Carolina’s posts spent the end of practice Tuesday running a drill where they were slammed with blocking pads while going for rebounds and putbacks. USC has a negative rebounding margin and coach Dawn Staley wants her bigs to get better at positioning.
“The importance of that drill is getting to a spot that puts the defense back on its heels. You get to the front of the rim, a lot of great things happen,” Staley said.
Over the past several years, the Gamecocks haven’t faced many teams that can overwhelm or even match them for size. Now that that’s become more common this year, drills like Tuesday’s are vital to make sure the fowards aren’t pushed around.
“The teams that go through their posts are pretty big, bigger than us, and so we’re just working on being strong and just powering through contact,” sophomore LaDazhia Williams said.
Helping that cause will be Alexis Jennings. The redshirt senior forward is fully healthy and USC plans to “load” her up with touches, Staley said.
Starting lineup shuffle: Staley has used four different lineup combinations in eight games this season, and we may see yet another, or at least something different than the Baylor game, on Wednesday. After the Baylor loss, Staley said sophomore forward Lele Grissett, who started the last two games, was more effective coming off the bench.
“We gotta probably consider bringing her off the bench, because her seeing the game as the game starts, she’s more into it then,” Staley said.
In her place, junior forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan may slot back in the starting five after coming off the bench the last three games, a role she has experience in after starting in front of A’ja Wilson in last year’s SEC tournament. For her part, Herbert Harrigan said Tuesday she has no preference for starting or coming in as a reserve.
Shot selection: South Carolina’s shooting percentages are down from last year, and Staley said she believes the main issue has been her team’s shot selection.
“We’re continuing to challenge our players to find the right shots on the floor. All open shots aren’t the right shots. You gotta find some rhythm, especially for us and our guards. We practice it every day, but we can’t seem to get that transition right in executing what we want,” Staley said.
Moving forward, Staley said, she wants to see the post players take more attempts, as she likes the looks they’re getting.