STaley’s ”Champ” by her side for No. 1 Gamecocks at Atlantis
The University of South Carolina women’s basketball team, No. 1 in the latest Associated Press and USAToday/ESPN Top 25 Coaches Polls, continue to claim the No. 1 ranking in the nation with a win over Northern Colorado on Monday evening in the Arena. Head coach Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks earned a 60-48 win and clinch their 20th straight win overall and 15th straight against non-conference competition.
The Gamecocks got off to a fast start by outscoring Northern Colorado 10-2 in the opening minute of the game. After Northern Colorado’s Valeness Scharuk grabbed an offensive rebound and put in the opening basket, they failed to score again until the final minute of the first half. South Carolina went on a 19-6 run over the next eight minutes and increased their lead to 39-22 with just over two minutes to play in the first half.
Nicole Dennis put in nine first half points while Chastity Gooch scored seven to lead the Gamecocks. Gooch’s performance in the first half earned her a spot on the AP All-Atlantic Coast Conference first team along with Dennis and guard/forward Tiffany Mitchell.
After winning 17-of-their first 18 games, South Carolina’s last loss occurred against Texas on November 21. The Gamecocks have now swept their final two games of the non-conference portion of their schedule after sweeping Alabama and UCLA during their non-conference home schedule.
Dennis recorded a double-double at halftime of Monday’s win with 10 points and 10 rebounds, and the big former Kentucky High School standout also added two blocks and two steals in the opening 20 minutes. Gooch led the team with 13 points at the break, and her points and rebounds give her double-digit games in seven of her last eight outings. Mitchell scored seven points in the first half, along with six rebounds.
Upset most of the final 20 minutes with the No. 1 ranking and No. 2-ranked Gamecocks, Northern Colorado trimmed the lead to single digits at 54-47 with just over six minutes remaining. After South Carolina scored five of the next six points, however, the Bears couldn’t make up any ground and finally went cold from the field and ended the game on a 6-for-25 clip.
The Gamecocks now turn their attention to the postseason with the SEC Tournament taking place at the Carolina Arena on Friday, Feb. 8, and continued post-season action will be on the schedule as well as four games against strong opponents in the NCAA tournament.
Head coach Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks (21-0, 11-0 SEC) feature an unstoppable offense that consistently gets it done with an efficient, interplay-heavy offense, with PUTBACKS and ATHLETIC DISCIPLINE at a high level, and ROAD RUNS and STEADY SCORING ABILITY being the trademarks of the ‘Cocks.
Sophomore guard Shamorie Ponds (Brooklyn, N.Y./Iona) is averaging 16.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.5 steals per game while fighting for ACC Freshman of the Year honors. She has been on the court in all 54 games so far and is second on the team in assists (77), third in free throw percentage (.893) and fourth in 3-point percentage (.381) behind senior guard Allisha Gray (26.2 ppg, 40.2 3P% – No. 8) and Dennis (10.2 ppg, 2.9 apg – No. 7). On Saturday, Ponds was named to the AP Top 25 All-Americans and picked as a second team All-American by the Sports Network. Senior guard Tyasha Harris (Midland, Texas/Pleasanton St.) has been a stalwart at point guard for the Gamecocks and ranks fifth in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio at 3.6-to-1, and senior guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore (Brevard, N.C./Freedom Christian Academy) is fourth in the country in steals per game (3.38). Senior center/forward Miah Spencer (Oster, N.C./Central Academy) owns one of the nation’s best interior games, with 16 double-doubles