NO. 12 SOUTH CAROLINA AT NO. 5 UCONN

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - COLLEGES -

When: Mon­day, 7 p.m.

Where: XL Cen­ter, Hart­ford

Records: South Carolina (17-5, 9-1 SEC); UConn (21-2, 10-0 AAC) TV: ESPN2

Ra­dio: UConn/IMG Sports Net­work — 97.9 ESPN-Hart­ford, WINE 940 AM-Brook­field, WGCH 1490 AM-Green­wich, WICC 600 AM-Bridge­port, WAVZ 1300 AM-New Haven, WXLM 980 AM-New Lon­don, WATR 1320 AM-Water­bury, WILI 1400 AMWil­li­man­tic

KEEP AN EYE ON Fa­mil­iar face:

⏩ It’s no se­cret that Napheesa Col­lier has great ad­mi­ra­tion for Dawn Sta­ley, who’s now in her 11th sea­son at South Carolina and has coached Col­lier through USA Bas­ket­ball.

A few years ago, in fact, Col­lier sur­prised Sta­ley by send­ing her a thank-you card fol­low­ing a tour­na­ment in Rus­sia.

“I re­ally like Dawn Sta­ley,” Col­lier said Satur­day fol­low­ing a 109-74 vic­tory over Tem­ple at Gam­pel Pav­il­ion. “I was with her be­fore I came here with U-18. I think it was the sum­mer be­fore I came here.

“I re­ally like the way she coaches and the way she ex­plains her­self to you. … She makes you un­der­stand why you need to do some­thing. She’s the kind of coach that in­spires play­ers to want to play for her.”

The two have got­ten to know each other quite well. Col­lier played most re­cently for Sta­ley this past sum­mer be­fore the FIBA World Cup. (Col­lier was the last col­lege player cut.)

“She plays at a high level,” Sta­ley said of Col­lier last Septem­ber. “I had the honor of coach­ing her in the U-18s, U-19s a cou­ple years ago. She’s pretty much the same player, but she’s a lot more ef­fi­cient. I think she un­der­stands it a lot more. She brings peo­ple up to her level as far as how hard she plays, her un­selfish­ness, and her abil­ity to just be re­lent­less out there on the court.”

Bal­anced ap­proach:

⏩ Last sea­son, South Carolina went to the Elite Eight on the strength of for­ward A’ja Wil­son, the con­sen­sus Na­tional Player of the Year and even­tual WNBA No. 1 over­all pick. Wil­son av­er­aged 22.6 points and pulled down 11.8 re­bounds a game.

With Wil­son now in Las Vegas, though, the blue­print has changed for Sta­ley & Co. Ten dif­fer­ent play­ers have led the Game­cocks in scor­ing at least once this sea­son.

“So much of what they were do­ing was built around A’ja Wil­son and their in­side game,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “I think it’s evolved now where they have more guards on the floor. Their guards are re­ally skilled, and they put a lot of pres­sure on you with their of­fense. And be­cause there’s more peo­ple putting shots up, they’re a lit­tle more dif­fi­cult to de­fend now than they were the last two or three years.”

Ju­nior guard Te’a Cooper leads South Carolina in scor­ing at 12.7 points per game.

Mov­ing on up:

⏩ With her 19-point ef­fort against Tem­ple, se­nior Katie Lou Sa­muel­son passed Kara Wolters and Re­becca Lobo to move into eighth on UConn’s all-time scor­ing list (2,147). Sa­muel­son, who’s av­er­ag­ing 18.9 points, sits just nine points be­hind Diana Taurasi.

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