Dawn Staley: Confident South Carolina 'locked in' defensively in rout of UConn

On3 imageby:Dan Morrison02/11/24

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Heading into the fourth quarterback against UConn, South Carolina held a 69-44 lead. For head coach Dawn Staley, there was plenty to like as the Gamecocks looked to finish the job entering the final frame.

Staley spoke to ESPN ahead of the fourth, sharing just how happy she was, particularly with her team’s defensive effort to that point.

“We’re locked in,” Dawn Staley said. “I think if it wasn’t for us being able to defend, it would be a real hard game to watch. Fortunately for us, our players are just locked in.”

Early in the game, UConn head coach Geno Auriemma made it clear that he wanted Aaliyah Edwards to play a big part of UConn’s offense. The Huskies did what they could to make that happen throughout the game, but South Carolina’s defense came up big in stopping that UConn attack.

“We want to muddy up their offense,” Staley said of UConn. “If you allow them to do what they do, it’s pretty basketball and they’re so efficient that we just try to knock a couple percentages off. They’re high percentage shooters, and it’s working great.”

Perhaps the most impressive part of the game on defense for Dawn Staley’s squad was that South Carolina was able to have all of that success without inside star Kamilla Cardoso. She, having the opportunity to play for the Brazil national team, was away from South Carolina and missed the game. In her place, Staley turned to Ashlyn Watkins, who stood up in a major way.

In the end, South Carolina won 83-65. The fourth quarter was the highest scoring quarter of the game for the Huskies. Overall, the Gamecocks managed to hold the Huskies to just 36.6 percent shooting from the field and 30.4 percent from three-point range. South Carolina also forced 13 turnovers on the game.

Ashlyn Watkins discusses bringing energy in dominant first half vs. UConn

Ashlyn Watkins spoke with ESPN at halftime. There, she discussed what she brought while getting the start in place of Kamilla Cardoso and explained that she was trying to bring energy to the team in the first half.

“I thought I had the energy,” Ashlyn Watkins said. “I’m trying to get my team going and pull away from this team. UConn is a great team and I think that we can push on them, attack them, and defend.”

Watkins ended up having an excellent game, finishing with 15 points to go with nine rebounds.