NCAA Tournament: Dawn Staley talks history vs. FSU; Bianca Jackson talks role

NCAA Tournament: Dawn Staley talks history vs. FSU; Bianca Jackson talks role

From the NCAA | Photo by Allen Sharpe 

No. 4 seed South Carolina (22-9) will play No. 5 seed Florida State (24-8) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Halton Arena in Charlotte. The Gamecocks and Seminoles have a long history, with the Gamecocks holding an 18-2 record in the series that dates back to the 1977-78 season.

SC-Belmont photos: Dilworth | Sharpe

In recent history, both of South Carolina’s NCAA Final Four appearance paths have gone through Florida State. The Gamecocks edged the Seminoles 80-74 in the 2015 Sweet 16 and 71-64 in the 2017 Elite Eight.

The Gamecocks advanced to play the Seminoles by beating No. 13 seed Belmont 74-52 on Friday at Halton Arena. The Seminoles beat No. 12 seed Bucknell (28-6) 70-67.

Here’s what Gamecock head coach Dawn Staley, players Te’a Cooper and Bianca Jackson had to say about the matchup. Answers have been shortened for brevity and clarity.

Staley on facing Florida State again in the postseason…
“They’re a skilled basketball team. They have great outside shooting. They have power inside. They have defensive players that can really get into you, bother you. They also have a point guard that will challenge us. She’s a three-way scorer. She can get to the rim, her mid-range is nice, and her three-point shooting is respectable. So, they’ve got pieces in a lot of places, so I think they will be the Florida State of old. It’s going to be a really tough game for us to get out of here.

“It’s always a chess match. I think [FSU has] a little more personnel than [it] did in previous years, and so do we, so we have to figure it out. We can do as much prep as we want prior to the game, but a lot of the adjustments will have to be made in game, and I think the coach or the team that’s able to execute that will probably end up being the winning team.

“I don’t know if we always trend in playing each other, but it seems to be that way. Our games were knock-out, drag outs. They were a possession away here or there and the results could have been different. I don’t think it’s going to be any different than that tomorrow, so we’re just looking forward to playing Florida State and seeing if we can continue into the second week of the NCAA Tournament.”

Staley on Florida State’s youth…
“We actually haven’t even talked about their youth. At this point, you have gotten another year under your belt. Freshmen are sophomores now, sophomores are juniors now, so you have to play, it doesn’t matter. We played a team of mostly seniors yesterday. You have to play at this level no matter what the age is beside the names.”

Staley on how Ty Harris has evolved…
“Well I think experience has helped Ty. She’s played with great players in her first year, last year it wasn’t as many talented players so to speak, because we lost a lot. So each and every team that she’s had has challenged her in different ways. I think that this year, her challenge is to balance facilitating and being aggressive offensively. As the season progressed, she became more of the aggressor offensively. She’s calling her own shot. I think she understands what we need her to do, and when we need her to do it, versus being a full-time facilitator.”

Staley on Harris’s play and experience with Team USA…
“I have seen Ty progress over her entire career here. She has got room to grow. Next year will be a challenging year for her as well. She is one step closer to getting to that next level. There are some things she needs from a point guard standpoint, just being a pro every day. One thing that she has changed this year is her diet. Young players don’t understand what you put in your body impacts how you perform on the court. She has taken the initiative to get better in some of her eating habits. Her challenge next year will be to figure out how to balance the young players that are coming in with the older players. If I am a betting woman, I am betting on Ty completing her career on a very high level.”

Staley on how Bianca Jackson’s roll has changed this year and if that has frustrated her…
“Well, any competitor is going to be frustrated playing a diminished role, so to speak. I mean, if she had any issues with it, I didn’t see them and, in her play, you don’t see it. I didn’t anticipate playing her 35 minutes. She made me play her 35 minutes with her production on the floor. It’s been really hard this year juggling the amount of talent we have and the depth that we have on the perimeter and in the post. I know it’s frustrating for our players, but they’ve grown to know that anybody can play five minutes to 40 minutes on any given night. You just have to be ready when your number is called.”

Staley on Mikiah Herbert Harrigan’s strong play…
“Kiki is super competitive. When the stakes are the highest, she likes to perform. Given an opportunity to play an entire game, her normal minutes, I think she would have made an even bigger impact than she did yesterday. I was happy that growth had taken place that she sat a half and got her mind right. To get in the third quarter and make impact — her impact was felt on the defensive side of the ball as well as offensively.”

Te’a Cooper on Harris…

“Ty puts us all in the right places and she gets us the ball when we need it. She’s a great vocal leader and she does everything we need her to do. She keeps the pace going. She sets the tempo. She does all the right things.”

Bianca Jackson on what stands out on film about Florida State…
“Their offensive rebounding. We have to do a good job of boxing them out and handling their pressure on defense.”

Bianca Jackson on her adjustment to her new role on the team this season…
“I’m just trying to stay focused, whenever I get a chance to get into the game, do what I can do to help the team and execute the game plan.”