'It was disheartening': Takeaways from South Carolina's loss to N.C. State

Gamecocks' 29-game win streak snapped

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Bad shot selection. Selfish play. Uncoachable. No flow.

Dawn Staley was as candid as ever after her South Carolina Gamecocks — the No. 1 team in the nation in this week’s Associated Press poll — was knocked off by the visiting N.C. State Wolfpack (No. 8), 54-46 on Thursday night.

“We just had no flow. We were a team I’ve never seen before. I’ve never coached a team that performed that way,” Staley said. “It was pickup basketball. I’m just not used to it. We need to figure some things out. 

“In my 21 years I’ve never felt what I felt during the game. Just uncoachable, untamable, just not listening,” she continued. “It was just selfish play. Really selfish play that we’re going to fix between now and Sunday for sure. I promise  you that. We’re going to fix it before  we take the floor again.” 

The loss gave the Gamecocks its first loss since November 28, 2019, breaking their 29-game streak, tied for third-longest in SEC history. The Gamecocks sit at 3-1 on the season and face the No. 23 ranked Iowa State on the road on Sunday.

Despite her obvious disappointment, Staley said it was not a totally bad loss for the  team, but believes it will “open our eyes to see where we need to be and how we need to play every time we step on the floor.

“We have to reel it back in and figure out a way to bounce back because we don’t have a whole lot of time,” she said. “We definitely have to get back on the horse and ride it.” 

N.C. State arrived at Colonial Life Arena as the aggressor, attacking the paint, controlling the tempo and winning both the free throw and three-point battle. 

The Gamecocks were in trouble from the beginning. N.C. State went into attack mode early and often. The Gamecocks struggled on the offensive end, shooting 27 percent from the field (20 of 74). The Wolfpack weren’t much better, shooting 20-for-68 from the field for 29.4 percent. But they prevailed defensively, and had a huge edge at the line, shooting 83 percent on free throws, compared to Carolina’s 36 percent. The Wolfpack also outscored South Carolina 30-28 in the lane and ended the game on an 11-2 run.

“We just took bad shots. Bad shot selection in the worst way. There were shots I had no idea...I didn’t know they were shots,” Staley said. “We got 74 shots at the basket. We just need to take better shots.

“When you’re not able to survive a 10-0 run. When you shoot 27 percent from the field…I think we shot 10 percent in the second quarter. I told our team I could be blindfolded and shoot better than 10 percent. That just tells  me were taking bad shots  and we don’t have any flow and that is something we are gong to have to fix as a coaching staff.”

N.C. State was led by Kayla Jones who finished with 16 points — including a 3-pointer to seal the win — and 12 rebounds. Elissa Cunane finished with 14 points (on 8-for-8 shooting at the free-throw line). 

The Gamecocks were led by Zia Cooke and Laeticia Amihere who each had 11 points and combined to shoot 8-for-32 from the field. Aliyah Boston, the Gamecocks star sophomore and a contender for national player-of-the-year, was held to nine points and nine rebounds by Cunane and the Wolfpack defense in a battle of the top two centers in the country. 

Their poor showing Thursday night comes down to leadership. The Gamecocks had the No. 1 recruiting class last year. All those players are now talented sophomores but lack experience. 

“It just tells us that we can’t rely on just being talented,” Staley said. “That talent has to play as a cohesive unit and we did not do that tonight. It’s disheartening. If you would have told me we needed to score 55 points to win this  game, I would have been sitting back happy.

“This team can score some points; when we are doing it in a way that we’re connected, We were not connected tonight and that is disheartening. 

“We need leadership,” Staley continued. “We need somebody that is going to step up and just tell our players we need to get organized, we need to take better shots We need our players who perform at a high level to continue to perform at that level whether you’re getting shots, whether you have to rebound, put back, you have to do your job.

“The novelty has worn off, now you gotta play.” 

South Carolina and N.C. State have met four times in the Dawn Staley era with the Gamecocks winning the first three and the Wolfpack claiming the most recent matchup — 55-53 on Dec. 4, 2011, in Raleigh.

N.C. State, which won the ACC Tournament last year are now 3-0.

"I'm so proud of this team,” head coach Wes Moore said. “I have great respect for (Gamecocks coach) Dawn Staley, what she did at Temple, the program she's built here. It's a great win for our program, but it's early in the year and we've got along ways to go."