The Lady Gamecocks honored their greatest player ever on Monday, with the official unveiling of A’ja Wilson’s statue in front of Colonial Life Arena. It was fitting that after a ceremony for one of the most dominant players in recent history, South Carolina took the court and showed off its current SEC dominance. Dawn Staley’s team is still growing and learning as is everyone with a limited preseason due to the pandemic. The Lady Gamecocks are now starting to find their rhythm and identity. That is a scary thought for the rest of the conference.
Lady Gamecocks Continue SEC Dominance
South Carolina sits atop the conference standings with a 5-0 record in league play. They dismantled a good Arkansas team on Monday night behind a huge performance from Aliyah Boston and a career game from Brea Beal. Staley’s squad also showed their depth and balance, with six other players scoring between six and 14 points. Boston had a night for the record books, becoming just the third player in 20 years to have 25+ points, 15+ rebounds, and 5+ blocks in an SEC game. Conference legends Candace Parker and Sylvia Fowles are the other two women to do so. The Lady Gamecocks have now won 21 consecutive conference games.
South Carolina fell earlier in the season to N.C. State in an ugly game where they only managed 46 points. Coach Staley called out her team’s focus and effort after the loss, and these ladies have responded. They haven’t scored less than 75 points since the loss. They have topped 100 three times, including each of the last two conference games. The team’s leading scorer Zia Cooke had just nine points on Monday, and the Lady Gamecocks still cruised to victory over a Top 15 opponent. That shows just how deep and talented this roster is.
It all starts inside with this team, as few opponents can match up with the post-rotation of Boston, Victoria Saxton, Lele Grissett, and Amihere Laeticia. The outside shooting has also improved, with three players shooting over 40% from beyond the arc. Four of the five starters average double figures. The combination of control in the paint and an uptick in shooting from the outside is scary for opponents. When this offense is rolling, their SEC dominance doesn’t look like it’ll be ending any time soon.
Destanni Henderson arrived at South Carolina as a prized five-star recruit. She had to bide her time as she waited behind Tyasha Harris for the last two years. The junior had shown flashes of her abilities but finally got her chance to lead the team this season. Her patience has paid off, and she has emerged as a star in her own right at the point guard position. She leads the SEC in assists per game and is shooting 44 percent from beyond the arc. Henderson has stepped into Harris’s shoes and has her squad executing the same level of SEC dominance as her predecessor. While Cooke and Boston garner most of the headlines, Henderson serves as this team’s engine. She pushes the pace, gets her teammates involved, and runs the show for Coach Staley.
Finishing the Mission
Ten months ago, this program had its chance at a National Title taken away when the NCAA Tournament was canceled. This year, they want to finish the job and cut down a few nets along the way. After losing two senior starters from last year’s number one ranked team, it took them a while to find their groove. Now that they have, they are racing past the competition. Coach Staley’s team has star power, talented depth, and a hunger to finish the path that was taken from them a year ago. The scary thought for the SEC and the rest of the nation is that this team is still growing and improving. They have a Hall of Fame coach and an abundance of talent. If they do get clicking on all cylinders, they are few teams that with a chance to slow them down.
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