Staley's Gamecocks calm, cool and ready entering Elite Eight

Staley's Gamecocks calm, cool and ready entering Elite Eight

**Story by Jeff Owens/Photo by South Carolina Media Relations**

Dawn Staley's South Carolina Gamecocks were having fun Sunday, laughing and joking and playing around as they took the podium to talk about their upcoming game in the NCAA Elite Eight.

That's just the way Staley likes it.

"You don't want them uptight," she said. "I think tomorrow will bring a lot of pressure and it won't be a laughing matter at (that) point. But they are pretty calm. They are cool. They get along with one another. You know, they are kids. I want them to enjoy the moment."

Gamecocks win big in Sweet 16

The Gamecocks (30-4) will play Florida State Monday night at 9 p.m. ET for the chance to advance to the Final Four in Dallas. They have won eight straight games after dismantling underdog Quinnipiac, 100-58, in the Sweet 16 Saturday and are giddy with excitement over the opportunity that awaits.

"We are just a funny team, goofy," said junior guard Allisha Gray. "We know there's a time and place for everything, so once we're on the court, we're serious and ready to play but right now it's a time where you get all your giggles out and you can be lackadaisical and stuff. But once you get out on the court, we know it's game time and we'll be ready to go."

Staley, whose has made it to the Sweet 16 four straight seasons and advanced to the Final Four in 2015, knows her experienced team will be ready when it's time to play Monday night.

"There is a time and a place for it all, and I want them to be comfortable," Staley said. "I want them to be loose. Because the team that gets to play at its normal composure is the team that is going to probably win the basketball game."

No. 3 seed Florida State rallied from 17 points down to beat No. 2 seed Oregon State, 66-53, Friday. South Carolina beat Florida State in the Elite Eight in 2015 to advance to the Final Four.

All-American forward A'Ja Wilson, a freshman on that 2015 team, remembers FSU being a very physical team, and expects the same on Monday.

"It was a very physical game," she said. "When something is on the line, you're going to come and fight for it and you really want it. I think it just comes down to want. I think we all know that the talent is in the room. I mean, we all know we're talented, but at the same time, when you're playing for something such as the Final Four, it comes down to heart and want.

"And I think after that game, I think we really wanted it and we went out and fought for it, and the results kind of showed."

The Gamecocks, the SEC regular-season and tournament champions, have already accomplished one big goal in reaching the Elite Eight after being upset in the Sweet 16 last season. The next step is reaching the Final Four for the second time in three years and for only the second time in school history.

"Of course I remember going to the Final Four and just that feeling," Wilson said. "That's something that I really want these girls to experience and, that's what we're going to go out there and try to do."

Her teammates can't wait to get there.

I'm just excited. Obviously this is … I came here to be in these games, to be in this situation," said junior guard Kaela Davis, a transfer from Georgia Tech. "You know, I wouldn't want to be on another team and trying to get to the Final Four with another group of girls. So I'm just excited."

"This is a position we've worked so hard (for)," Staley said. "We control our own destiny, and hopefully we'll come out and perform like we've performed all season long."