Thursday night’s game turned out to be a lot tougher than most Gamecock fans would’ve thought, as the LSU Tigers came to play.
Coach Nikki Fargas’ squad challenged the Gamecocks for the entire first half, giving them fits and reasons to be frustrated as it would only be a six point game at halftime.
But come the second half, the Gamecocks would respond with power and put together a strong run in the 3rd quarter to build a substantial lead, holding it for the remainder of the outing.
The eventual fifteen-point win is a big one for several reasons.
First, the Gamecocks have now won twenty straight games, just two games short of tying the twenty-two consecutive win school record in 2015.
Second, the Gamecocks now move to 13-0 in the SEC, remain undefeated on the home court at 14-0, and push the magic number to one in order to clinch the program’s 9th SEC title in seven years.
Perhaps most importantly, Thursday’s win against the Tigers of Baton Rouge has given Coach Staley something bigger than all of that…her 299th win as a head coach at the University of South Carolina.
If Coach Staley’s squad can stay focused and locked in and get the next W tomorrow afternoon, she will enter an illustrious club at South Carolina.
With a win, she will become the eighth head coach in USC history to reach 300 wins at the helm of a program.
This would be a huge notch in the belt for Coach Staley as she is already the winningest coach of Gamecock Women’s Basketball, but now has the chance to join an historic group of legendary men and women who have helped create and build the history of this great university and pave the road to where we now stand.
If Coach Staley were to capture her 300th win Sunday at Kentucky’s Memorial Arena, she would do it better than most and shatter several records in the process – in true Dawn Staley fashion.
With the win, she would become the eighth member of South Carolina’s 300-win Coach Club, joining softball’s Joyce Compton (951), baseball’s Ray Tanner (738), men’s soccer’s Mark Berson (503), women’s tennis’ Arlo Elkins (438), men’s tennis’ Kent DeMar, softball’s Beverly Smith (322), and men’s tennis’ Ron Smarr (320).
Staley would be the fourth quickest to 300 wins, reaching that total in only her twelfth season; behind Coach Tanner and Coach Compton, both accomplishing that feat in seven seasons, and Coach Smith, who accomplished it last year in her ninth season.
Staley, however, would be the third best when it comes to reaching the 300-win club with the fewest losses at only 98. To top it all off, she would be the second of eight to have won a national championship in her coaching career, and the first to enter the 300-win club already in possession of a title.
Coach Ray Tanner, the only other national title winner among the group, would not win his first title until seven years after joining the club.
This prestigious club would be a fitting one to join for Coach Staley, as she is sure to be around long enough to one day be leader of the pack.
A win on Sunday would be just another huge piece in the legacy of the legendary Dawn Staley that we have all been so lucky to be apart of.
But Sunday’s game is not one we should assume to be an automatic win, as the #14 Wildcats can be a very dangerous team at home.
They come in at 20-5 on the season, having lost two of their last five and desperately looking to finish strong and clinch the precious double-bye in the SEC tournament.
This is also a team led by sophomore Rhyne Howard, who leads the SEC with an average of 23.2 PPG.
The Gamecocks will have to gameplan for her again, just like they did on January 2nd when the Wildcats came to Columbia.
Howard was still able to score 28 points by game’s end, but the Gamecocks held the other eight players on the team to about 5.5 points each.
Kentucky will need a strong performance from all of their players if they wish to protect home court – but if they don’t, Dawn Staley will have her 300th win and a seat at the 300-win club’s table.
Sunday’s game will be sure to have plenty of drama and excitement, and if all goes as expected, all of Gamecock Nation should be ready to celebrate women’s basketball’s ninth SEC title and 300 glorious wins with the unrivaled Coach Dawn Staley.