After South Carolina’s dethroning at the hands of the Connecticut Huskies, 87-62 last night, there was only one real silver lining.
This was a good learning experience.
Despite the loss, playing UConn in the regular season on their home court was still a good thing. It allowed the Gamecocks to go into a hostile environment and feel what it is like to go head to head with the best in the nation. Now, they need to take that experience and learn from it.
As an observer of the game, here are five things that we learned from last night’s loss.
1. UConn has an incredible home environment.
There’s a reason why the Huskies haven’t witnessed a loss in Gampel Pavilion since Notre Dame in 2013. There fans are bonkers. Very few fanbases in women’s college basketball can put the kind of pressure on opposing players that UConn’s did last night. They didn’t let mountains of blistering snow stop them from shaking the rafters and clearly rattling the Gamecocks.
2. South Carolina is still too one-dimensional.
UConn had the complete package. Toss it down low to Breanna Stewart and watch her go to work in the post, leave it to Moriah Jefferson and she breaks a couple ankles, or dish it out to Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis for an endless flurry of three pointers.
Although South Carolina has made strides in becoming more versatile, outside of Tiffany Mitchell, almost all of the scoring comes from the paint. Whenever the Gamecocks play a team, like UConn, that can challenge them in the post, they have difficulty scoring.
3. UConn is good.
This team has made tremendous strides since their overtime loss on the road to Stanford. With an 18 point victory in South Bend against number four Notre Dame and a 31 point blowout of Duke at home, everyone knew this would be a tough matchup for Dawn Staley and the crew. Coming off of a road trip to Athens, four days prior, going up to Storrs, and running over the dynasty that is Connecticut women’s basketball was a pretty tall order. It’s always good to keep things in perspective.
4. This team is still young.
Despite having three seniors on this year’s team, only Aleighsa Welch and Elem Ibiam contribute big time minutes. Beyond those three, South Carolina has four juniors, three sophomores, and five freshmen. Two of those freshmen, A’ja Wilson and Bianca Cuevas, are main contributors off of the bench and Wilson is second on the team in scoring and rebounds.
That youth showed last night on ESPN2 in front of a raucous crowd and with all the weight of the world on their shoulders against the best of the best. As a result, USC turned the ball over 17 times and had a plethora of lapses defensively.
5. The future is still bright.
With six regular season games left, three of which are against ranked opponents, and an SEC Tournament, the Gamecocks have plenty of time to analyze their team and rebound from this defeat. This is not a team that will go down without a fight. When asked if they would like to play UConn again, Tiffany Mitchell, Aleighsa Welch, and Dawn Staley all replied over each other with a resounding yes.
And that’s the kind of mentality that this team has. Dawn Staley will take this and use it as an experience to teach from. USC women’s basketball will come back and they’ll get another shot at the Huskies.
Besides, it’s the second victory that really counts.