COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A'ja Wilson loves competition.
It's what the SEC Player of the Week has thrived on as a key piece of South Carolina's deep tournament runs over the last three years. However, if there's one regular season game that's important to the former Heathwood Hall star, it's the Gamecocks' rivalry tilt against Clemson.
"I always want to beat Clemson in anything," said Wilson. "It's always going to be a rivalry to me. I'm a homegrown girl and that's everything. I mean you've just got to beat Clemson. I think I slipped up one time and I tweeted something about something...and everyone was like 'No, no! Clemson, no, no!' I was like 'Okay.' So, I think that's when I got a feel for it."
There are a few new faces on the roster for the Gamecocks this season and the Carolina-Clemson rivalry. However, acquiring a passion for the rivalry isn't something that former Kentucky star Alexis Jennings won't have trouble with.
"I take it like A'ja takes it," Jennings said. "She says it's personal so I take it personal, too, and we're going to go out there and do our best to get that win."
Carolina hasn't lost a game to the Tigers since 2009 and has won 10 of the last 12 meetings. Although they've dominated this series in recent years, the Gamecocks see this game and their previous matchup against Maryland as contests that could prepare them for what's to come later in the season.
"I prefer to play top teams," said Gamecocks head coach Dawn Staley. "I think our players have a lot more focus when they know there's a big game on the line. I think the true test of a good team is to always have that no matter who we're playing. So, I'm eager to see how our team comes out. I think we have the better team going into playing Clemson, but the better team doesn't always win if we take them lightly. I just hope we respect our opponents and we play our style of play and not play anybody else's."
The Gamecocks will travel to Littlejohn Coliseum on Thursday at 7 p.m.