Q & A with Garnet And Black Attack
In preparation for the women’s basketball game against South Carolina tomorrow (tomorrow! NCAA!) I hit up Garnet And Black Attack, the SB Nation South Carolina blog, for a Q & A. Gamecock Man was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.
Like EMU, this seems to be South Carolina’s best team in nearly a decade. What’s changed?
Yes, this is definitely the best South Carolina team in many years. I would simply attribute the success to Dawn Staley’s program-building. South Carolina invested a sizeable chunk of change to bring Staley in back in 2008 to resurrect our then-moribund program. Since then, she’s been a tireless recruiter and has upgraded our talent considerably. She’s had some problems here and there with attrition and developing positive relationships with her players, so the ascent hasn’t been as fast as we had hoped, but it’s been steady. Her win total has increased each season, culminating in a trip to the NCAA tournament this year. The talent is now here, and the players have bought in to what she’s preaching.
Here’s a link to a nice piece on Staley, focusing on her program-building efforts.
I’ve heard that the Gamecocks are similar to EMU’s men’s basketball team: low scoring, slow pace, brutal defense. How would you describe the offensive and defensive schemes?
That’s correct. South Carolina is fourth in the nation in scoring defense, which reflects the team’s emphasis on defense and, particularly, it’s deliberate pacing.
Defensively, we’ll try different approaches, but we play a lot of man-to-man and there is a big emphasis on being aggressive while also being disciplined and not giving up quick scores and forcing the other team to run its half-court offense. We’ve been pretty good defensively this year; all coaches who preach aggressiveness want to be disciplined, too, but not many achieve that. That’s one of the things Staley and her team have done well this year.
Offensively, the Gamecocks will definitely look to slow it down. We tend to rely heavily on our two guards, Iesia Walker and La’Keisha Sutton. Most of the offense goes through them. They do a lot of cutting and driving, as much in order to set up jump shots for themselves and others as to score around the basket. Markeisha Grant and Tina Roy are also strong shooters we try to get the ball to. We don’t have an elite offensive post player, so we rely on outside shooting a lot, maybe a bit too much. But that’s where our strength is.
How is South Carolina’s ball-handling?
I’d say it’s solid. We generally protected the ball pretty well, but we had some problems with turnovers against some of the more aggressive defensive teams, like Kentucky. The Gamecocks rank a respectable 37th in the country in TO margin, but they’re also pretty high in forced TOs as a product of the aggressive defense. One of the interesting things about this game against EMU will definitely be how the more deliberate Gamecocks react to a more fast-paced team that looks to create turnovers defensively.
Keys to the game and your prediction.
I think this should be a close win for South Carolina. In addition to EMU being a good team, I think they’re a matchup problem for us. Eastern Michigan, I’ve read, plays well against man-to-man defenses, so it may be a challenge for South Carolina to keep this the kind of low-scoring game that it likes to play. I also think your forwards, particularly Paige Reddit, may give the Gamecocks fits, because we struggle against good front lines. Lastly, the tempo issue will come into play–how will the Gamecocks respond to a more fast-paced game? Can they dictate the tempo? I do, though, think the Gamecocks are the more talented team overal, particularly in terms of depth. We’re able to maintain our intensity level over the course of the the game because we can go deep into the bench. That should help us outlast EMU in this game. Whatever happens, it should be an exciting contest. Good luck!