PHILADELPHIA, PA. 12/21/2017 – There is a sense of excitement when Dawn Staley, the former coach at Temple returns. There is added drama when that coach and team comes in as defending national champions.
Staley was the leader of the Temple program from 2000 – 2008. She became the head coach of South Carolina in May of 2008. Last season Staley and the Gamecocks climbed to the top of the mountain winning the NCAA Tournament. On her return home Staley was honored by have a street named after her in addition to other accolades.
“I am feeling a little overwhelmed with everything that has taken place,” said Staley. “I wanted to come up here, play a game and share a replica national championship trophy and be a part of Candace Dupree’s retired number. Philadelphia is a city that loves on so many levels. The come back, the sharing, I truly was blessed.”
Temple Coach Tonya Cardoza took over at Temple and has the most wins in program history. This is her 10th season at the helm.
Both coaches played together at the University of Virginia. This is the first time they faced each other as head coaches.
The game is played on the court. #4/5 South Carolina won 87 – 60.
“Once the ball is up, it’s just another opponent,” Staley said.
South Carolina established themselves early taking a 26 – 9 lead after one quarter, then stretched it to 46 – 20 at halftime. In the half Temple was held to 20% shooting and was outrebounded 30 – 18. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks made 19 of 37 (51.4%) and had 11 assists on 19 baskets.
“We knew coming in this game it was going to be difficult because of their size,” said Cardoza. “We tried to pack it in and hope they missed shots and obviously they came out and made shots.”
Tanaya Atkinson, who had 14 points, scored early in the first quarter to eclipse the 1,500 point plateau. She has 1,513 career-points. Atkinson had 9 rebounds leaving her one shy of another double-double. She added a team-high 6 assists
“In the second half I came out more aggressive,” Atkinson said. “I was hesitant in the beginning.”
Mia Davis registered a double-double scoring a team-high 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Emani Mayo added 13 points.,
Gamecocks Player of the Year candidate A’ja Wilson filled the stat sheet scoring 28 points on 10 of 15 shooting and was 7 of 12 from the line. Wilson took down 12 rebounds and tied her career-high in blocks for the third time swatting 8 shots.
“I love defense,” said Wilson. “It is something I take a lot if pride in. I take what they give me, and if it is blocking shots, I try to make the offensive player change their shot.”
“We tried to limit her as much as possible,” Cardoza said. “But the guys around her stepped up and made shots. It’s tough to beat them when they are knocking down three-point shots an they can get the ball inside.”
All four South Carolina starters scored in double figures. Guard Bianca Jackson had 16 points, a career-high. Tyasha Harris handed 0ut 11 rebounds. As team the Gamecoks made 53% from the floor and went 8 for 20 from deep.
At halftime Temple great Candice Dupree had her number 4 retired. She played from 2002 – 2006. She was coached by Dawn Staley. Dupree is the All-Time program leader in field goal percentage with 51.4%. She was a two-time conference and Big Five Player of the Year, and was the Most Outstanding Player at the 2006 Atlantic 10 Conference Championship.
In a classy gesture Staley stayed for the ceremony and had her Gamecocks squad view the honor.
Written By: Glenn Papazian
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