#21 South Carolina knew they had a chance of knocking off #1 Stanford for the first win over a top…
Carolina pounds Furman, ties record start
Carolina used a stifling defense early in the game to create turnovers and turn it into instant offense. The Gamecocks forced 24 turnovers and turned it into 31 points. Ieasia Walker and Tiffany Mitchell each had five steals, several times stealing a pass under the Carolina basket and laying it in.
"Initially the game plan was to go inside, but we were missing some easy shots near the basket," Walker said. "We picked it up on the defensive end which is what we're good at and we made our defense create our offense."
Carolina scored the first six points of the contest, despite both teams struggling mightily from the floor early on. That's when Carolina turned up the pressure, going on a 12-0 run to build a commanding 33-12 lead. Behind a balanced attack that featured seven different players scoring, Carolina would take a 37-20 lead into the locker room.
"They controlled the tempo of the game early with what they were doing from a defensive standpoint sagging back and playing off of us and daring us to take outside shots," Staley said. "It's hard to get into a flow if you're not making shots. It took us a few minutes to get comfortable with how they were playing us."
In the second half Carolina would take away any hopes of a Furman comeback right away. Walker and Mitchell each had layups as the Gamecocks went on an 11-0 run to build a commanding 48-22 lead. Carolina would keep their foot on the pedal the rest on the way as they cruised to the 69-35 final.
Mitchell led all scorers with 16 points after a slow start and Aleighsa Welch had 11.
"Tiffany Mitchell is getting an opportunity to do more because she's a starter and she plays a lot of minutes," Staley said. "I knew what type of player she is and would be in our system. She's pretty explosive and can get to the basket and she's doing that extremely well for us."
Wilka Montout was the third double-figure scorer for the Gamecocks with 10, while Walker finished with nine and Elem Ibiam had eight. Six of Montout's points came from outside the normal range of a center, but Montout has great touch for someone who stands 6'3.
"She wants me to take the outside shots," Montout said. "I haven't been taking them lately because I've been missing, but today it was going in and I felt confident to take them."
Carolina will now take a 10 day break from basketball to focus on exams and finishing the first half of the school year before returning to the court on Wednesday, December 19th for a highly-anticipated rematch with #1 Stanford on the backend of a double-header with the men's basketball team.
"As coaches we put things in perspective," Staley said. "It is a game that is a measuring stick. Not to say that the first 10 weren't, but they're #1 in the country for the reason. Stanford will be a challenge for us and we look forward to it. Our players get a chance to look forward to exams and Stanford."
It was Stanford who knocked off Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen a year ago en route to the Final Four where it would lose to eventual NCAA Champion Baylor. The Cardinal returned the favor earlier this season with a 71-69 win over the Bears in Palo Alto.
"We're in a good position," Walker said. "Our spirits are high because we've been winning. We've had some quality wins and now we have against some good competition and we have a big test coming up against Stanford. Right now we just want to get our rest and when we begin practicing again we're going to start preparing for Stanford. We know it's going to be a different level of basketball, but I think we're ready for the challenge."
Now that the first third of the schedule is in the books, Staley and her staff are beginning to learn a lot about their team. They have shown that they are a team that can win big as proven by their 82-58 win at Louisiana Tech, and they are a team that can win ugly as evidenced by their 45-34 win over Hampton in the Virgin Islands. They also proved that they can come back from a poor first half performance to win as evidenced by their 58-55 comeback victory over Drexel after trailing by 14 points at the break. Whether pretty or ugly, this is a team that just wants to win.
"This team doesn't like to lose and they play hard every time they step on the floor," Staley said. "We have some great leadership from the perimeter and the post and overall I think Ieasia is doing a wonderful job leading this team. We still have to be a lot more disciplined as we come down to the meat of our schedule. We're 10-0 and I think we deserve to be 10-0 because we've outplayed people, but we have a big game coming in here that's really going to measure where we are versus the upper echelon of the country."
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