How to watch, what to watch for in South Carolina women’s rivalry game with Clemson

Dawn Staley previews South Carolina’s first home game of the season against Clemson

South Carolina women's basketball coach Dawn Staley talks about the home atmosphere she hopes to have as the Gamecocks play in-state rival Clemson on Thursday for USC's first home game of the 2018-2019 season.
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South Carolina women's basketball coach Dawn Staley talks about the home atmosphere she hopes to have as the Gamecocks play in-state rival Clemson on Thursday for USC's first home game of the 2018-2019 season.

Who: No. 10 South Carolina (1-0) vs. Clemson (2-0)

When: 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 15

Where: Colonial Life Arena

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 107.5 FM in Columbia, South Carolina

Series history: Clemson leads the all-time series, 33-30, but South Carolina has won the last eight matchups, the longest streak for either team in the series. Dawn Staley has an 8-2 record vs. the Tigers.

Last meeting: South Carolina cruised by Clemson last year at Littlejohn Coliseum, 66-36, on Nov. 16, 2017.

South Carolina’s projected starting lineup: Junior guard Tyasha Harris, redshirt junior guard Te’a Cooper, sophomore guard Bianca Jackson, redshirt senior guard Donyiah Cliney, junior forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan

Clemson’s projected starting lineup: Senior guard Danielle Edwards, senior guard Alyiah Collier, graduate student guard Simone Westbrook, junior forward Kobi Thorton, sophomore center Tylar Bennett

Injury report: Redshirt senior forward Alexis Jennings and redshirt senior guard Nelly Perry are expected to be available in limited roles, Staley announced Wednesday, playing only in spurts. Redshirt senior guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore has been fully cleared after knee surgery, but Staley said she wants her to reach full speed before she plays in order to establish her confidence. She will not play vs. Clemson.

South Carolina notes: The Gamecocks attempted 25 3-pointers in their season opener against Alabama State. The most in the Staley era is 33. ... Carolina is 23-9 all-time in home openers, including an 8-2 mark under Dawn Staley. ... Team captains were announced for the season: junior guard Tyasha Harris, redshirt senior guard Donyiah Cliney and redshirt senior forward Alexis Jennings.

Clemson notes: Kobi Thorton’s 67.9 field goal percentage percent from the field is fifth in the ACC. ... Clemson is allowing just 66.4 points per 100 possessions so far this year, a top-25 mark in the country. ... Redshirt senior guard Simone Westbrook is in her seventh year of NCAA eligibility after transferring from a junior college to Florida, suffering a season-ending injury and winning an appeal with the NCAA.

3 key storylines

In-state transfer: South Carolina redshirt senior guard Nelly Perry made the unusual jump between fierce in-state rivals when she left Clemson this past offseason for USC. She’s said all the right things about wanting to stay in the present and just play for the Gamecocks, but it will interesting to see if she shows any emotion at all going against her former teammates, or vice versa.

Dawn Staley said she has not mentioned anything about the situation to Perry, but she doesn’t know if the players have discussed it amongst themselves.

“They don’t let me in their group threads,” Staley said. “Knowing them, they probably mentioned it to her and probably had some funny commentary on their threads.”

New coach, but a familiar face: Clemson is in its first season under coach Amanda Butler after Dawn Staley’s longtime friend Audra Smith was let go this past offseason. But Staley and the Gamecocks know Butler well — she coached at Florida for 10 seasons. facing South Carolina many times in that stretch. Staley owns a 9-4 record against her.

And while Butler is still working with a new team with personnel she did not recruit, Staley said she has already seen some elements of Butler’s style in how the Tigers play.

“It’s more of the same in what she’s done,” Staley said. “She’s probably pressing a lot more than she did at Florida, but at this stage in the game you gotta create some offense from your defense.”

Big vs. small: South Carolina’s new focus on going small and playing fast will receive its first real test on Thursday in the form of Clemson junior Kobi Thorton, who is averaging a double-double in two games so far. At 6-foot-2, Thorton may not be a giant presence in the paint, but she will certainly challenge the Gamecocks down low and create some matchup problems.

“Thorton is one that if we had really big bigs or what we have now, she’d be hard for us to guard,” Staley said. “I think our main focus is to try to get her to not have a double-double on us, which is a hard feat because she’s so active on both sides of the ball and she’s super athletic and fast.”