Midway through this past December, South Carolina women’s basketball took a 12-day break between games, ostensibly to let its players focus on the end-of-semester exams.
But if the numbers are anything to go by, sophomore guard Tyasha Harris also took the nearly-two week gap to reset herself on the court as well, culminating in a breakout performance on Sunday against No. 6 Tennessee.
Before the season began, head coach Dawn Staley was talking about Harris, a team captain, becoming more of a scoring threat for the Gamecocks, potentially even as a No. 2 option to All-American A’ja Wilson. Through 10 games, however, Harris’s stats had only modestly increased over her freshman season, when she was primarily a distributor for the rest of USC’s high-powered offense.
Before the exam break began on Dec. 6, Harris wasn’t playing poorly — she averaged 9.4 points and 5.4 assists per game on 40 percent shooting from the field and 19.4 percent on 3-pointers. But since the team returned to play Savannah State on Dec. 17, Harris has emerged as Staley’s workhorse and the perimeter complement to Wilson the Gamecocks need.
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After posting just one double double through the first 47 games of her career, Harris has collected four in the past seven contests. During that stretch, she has averaged 14.6 points and 8.7 assists per game, shooting 52 percent from the floor and 34.8 percent from 3. In that time, she’s also cut down on her turnovers, maintained her average of three steals per game and staked a claim to being one of the best guards in the SEC.
So when Wilson went down with an ankle sprain just before the game against Tennessee, the question of who would lead the Gamecocks’ offense was clear.
Harris responded with career-highs in points (28) and field goal attempts (21), while accounting for all of South Carolina’s assists (4). She added three rebounds and four steals while turning the ball over just once. And while she was clearly tired by the game’s end as Tennessee powered to a 86-70 win, she deserved credit for keeping Staley’s squad in the game at all.
Exactly how long South Carolina will be without Wilson is still unclear. When she does return, Harris will likely step back and allow her to take control of the offense. But Sunday did provide a glimpse of how Harris might play once Wilson graduates.
Lindsey Spann cools off
Graduate student guard Lindsey Spann has stumbled a bit recently since returning from a knee injury that sidelined her for five games.
Granted, Spann’s numbers in the five games since she has returned to the floor can be seen as a natural setback given her limited minutes and less-than-full health, as well as a regression to the mean after a blazing start to the year.
Before Spann went down with a knee sprain, she was South Carolina’s second best scorer, averaging 13.6 points per game on 55 percent shooting from 3-point territory — the NCAA record for a season is 57.5 percent.
Her three-point percentage has dipped to 32.1 in the five games since, not terrible, but not at the level of the sharpshooter Spann can be.
Greg Hadley: @GregHadley9