Gamecocks embrace Top 5 road battle to start season

Gamecocks Dawn Staley coaching from the bench during an exhibition against Benedict.
Gamecocks Dawn Staley coaching from the bench during an exhibition against Benedict.(WIS)
Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 9:11 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina embraces a marquee matchup to open the season. The top-ranked Gamecock women tip-off with a top 5 road test at fifth-ranked North Carolina State on Tuesday.

“It’s a huge challenge,” said head coach Dawn Staley. “It forces you to get right quickly. Fortunately for us, we got the core of our team back. We got our entire starting five back. It starts there.”

The good news for Carolina is starting guard Zia Cooke will be ready to go. She sat out the exhibition last week with an ankle injury.

Having Cooke back in the lineup for the battle is pivotal. So will one of the newest additions to the Gamecock squad in sophomore transfer Kamilla Cardoso. The 6′7 center from Brazil offers a skill set few in the women’s game possess.

“She just brings a different dimension to our team,” Staley added. “She’s ready. She doesn’t want to look bad. She utilizes her height to her advantage.”

Cardoso proved that in the scrimmage and all last season during her freshman campaign with Syracuse. She earned ACC Freshman of the Year and ACC co-Defensive Player of the Year honors.

She’s one of five newcomers added to the Gamecock roster in the off-season. The other four are all freshmen. How the first-year players execute will determine the pecking order in how the rotation ultimately unfolds.

“Whoever enters the game has done some things that are impressive in practice,” Staley mentioned. “What they do with that time is on them. They have to enter the game and make an impact.”

And when the Gamecocks take the floor at North Carolina State for a 5 P.M. tip, revenge will not serve as the motivator. If you recall, South Carolina lost a low-scoring home tilt to the Wolfpack last December.

“We weren’t that team for 99-percent of the season,” Staley said. “What we’re motivated by is to be the best we can be and play our style of play. Play the way we’re used to playing. If we get beat, we get beat... we want to put our best foot forward.”

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