NO. 12 SOUTH CAROLINA AT NO. 5 UCONN
When: Monday, 7 p.m.
Where: XL Center, Hartford
Records: South Carolina (17-5, 9-1 SEC); UConn (21-2, 10-0 AAC)
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.