USC Women’s Basketball Team & Coach Dawn Staley are Just That Good
By Sheryl McAlister, editor of Old Broad & New Trix
If you’ve never been to a sporting event, make an exception in this case. Doesn’t matter if you don’t understand the game. Because when all is said and done, for the bargain basement price of 7 bucks and maybe another 10 for concessions, you’re going to witness something special.
The South Carolina Women’s Basketball game last night against Texas A&M was still more than an hour from tip-off, and the parking lot was full. Hundreds of people were already in their seats. Both teams were warming up – music cranked, alternating between Taylor Swift, Rita Ora and Iggy Azalea. The lights were on in the corporate boxes. And there were actual people in them.
The place was rockin’. It reminded me of USC men’s basketball in the 1960s and ‘70s – if you substitute the USC pep band for current pop culture. This team is Frank McGuire good. And so is USC coach Dawn Staley.
Leadership. Chemistry. Poetry in motion. These girls can play.
Currently 19-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation, the USC women have presumably surpassed many of the goals they must have set for themselves in the pre-season. As a player, you dream of going undefeated and winning a national championship. But really, do you believe you’re going to be this good? Apparently, they do. The Gamecock Notes section of the game’s basketball program ticks off the accomplishments – so far.
• USC women lead nation with average attendance of 11,631
• One of just 2 teams to rank in the nation’s Top 15 in both scoring offense & scoring defense
• Started SEC play 6-0 for the first time in program history
• Scored in triple digits for the first time in SEC regular season play in 102-59 win at Alabama
If you saw this team play early in the season, you just knew they were going to be exceptional. A team of superstars – a team of them – guided by a Hall of Fame player and coach who has competed on every level. They were good then. They’re incredible now. And several of those former high school superstars are coming off the bench.
I must admit, I’ve rarely seen a USC women’s basketball team play in the last 15 years. I spent a great deal of time watching USC women’s games in the early 1980s when my sister played for the Gamecocks. Back then, it was good to see several thousand folks in the stands. It was always good to see little kids with parents and grandparents. It was good to know a general admission ticket could get you as close to the floor as you wanted to be.
I’ve seen 10,000 plus women’s fans before but that was at a Women’s Final Four basketball tournament. This was women’s basketball in Columbia, and it was fantastic.
The crowd was diverse. And loud. There was the quintessential rabid fan who is a perennial fan favorite at women’s basketball games. He’s usually a middle-aged man with a Gamecock shirt and a goofy wig. Waving a Gamecock Nation flag for all the world.
Everybody — I’m not kidding — everybody was into it.
Little girls were cheering, and little boys were mopping the floors. This winning stuff has become no big deal for a generation of girls who have seen women run for President and women’s professional sports teams flourish. There is no recollection for them of a time gone by when Title IX was the only reason a girl could get on a court. For the girls on this particular court, their mothers and grandmothers fought those fights.
Last night, both teams acknowledged an extraordinary leader and coach who was vital to the movement that allowed women to play on the same level as men. Both teams wore We Back Pat shirts in honor of Pat Summitt as part of SEC Week for the Pat Summitt Foundation. Summitt, the legendary women’s coach at the University of Tennessee, has Alzheimer’s disease. It was the only somber moment in an otherwise wild evening.
USC and Texas A&M went back and forth for most of the game. But at the 9:22 mark, the momentum shifted. Carolina exploded; the crowd went crazy, and 22 seconds later, USC held a 60-44 lead. It never got any closer than that.
This team will be in Tampa for the NCAA Women’s Final Four. I suspect they’ll come home with a national championship – undefeated or not. Staley will be the consensus Coach of the Year.
I’m guessing this team could have scored more than 100 points against quite a few opponents this season. Not because they held back, but because they didn’t have to. In the Clemson game earlier in the season, USC blew the Tigers away. They could have scored well past 100.
They stopped at 99. Junior guard Tina Roy dribbled the ball near half court until the clock ran out. Not taunting. Not celebratory. Just a class act. All the way.
There are only a few home games left until March Madness. Do yourself a favor, and don’t miss a chance to see this team play. You won’t regret it.
Copyright ©Sheryl McAlister 2015.