Despite early SEC Tournament exit, Staley and Gamecocks confident entering NCAA Tournament

Despite early SEC Tournament exit, Staley and Gamecocks confident entering NCAA Tournament

By Josh Hyber | Photo by Allen Sharpe

CHARLOTTE — Dawn Staley has an unblemished record when it comes to games she has coached at UNC Charlotte’s Halton Arena. She has won all three times she has coached at the arena — once while at Temple and twice while at South Carolina.

“Hopefully it’ll stay that way,” she said with a laugh on Thursday in the arena’s lower corridor.

Staley has a chance to add at least one more win to the tally this weekend when her No. 4 seed Gamecocks (21-9) take on No. 13 seed Belmont (26-6) on Friday at 1:45 p.m. in an NCAA Tournament First Round matchup.

But the coach not only reflected back on Thursday, she looked ahead, particularly at her current squad’s chances of winning its next six games — what it would take for the Gamecocks to become national champions.

Intense practices prepare SC

“If we start clicking at the same time, I do think that we can beat anybody,” the coach said. “If we can play 40 minutes … if we can put four quarters together, I do think we can make a deep run in this tournament.

“But that’s up to us. … Whether we’re able to execute for long stretches during basketball games will be an indicator of whether we can make a deep run in the tournament.”

Softball wins with walk-off

South Carolina point guard Ty Harris compared this Gamecock season to a roller coaster, one with lots of quick ups and downs. But she also said the team has settled down, particularly after bowing out early in the SEC Tournament, and has gelled at the right time. 

“[The NCAA Tournament is] a roller coaster, it’s very competitive,” she said. “Any team can win at any time or any given moment. 

“There are a lot of upsets that can happen. We just have to be prepared for anything.”