South Carolina hopes success breeds more success

South Carolina (23-0), which kept its record unblemished ahead of next Sunday’s showdown with another undefeated Southeastern Conference team, Louisiana State, looks as formidable as it gets. was when she won her second title last season.

After losing eight straight to Connecticut, South Carolina has now won three in a row and four of five against the Huskies (21-3). But Sunday’s victory was the first at the XL Center in Hartford, home of the Huskies, where 11 national championship banners hang above the field.

“Overall, it’s not really important,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “But for your psyche, when we beat UConn in the regular season, big things happen in the playoffs. You have to feel some success, or you play them again and you lost that game, it kinda makes you doubt that you can’t beat them.

Their Philadelphia roots aside, Staley and Auriemma approach the game differently. (As Staley prowled the sideline in an Eagles hoodie, Auriemma will support Kansas City in the Super Bowl because of his friendship with the team’s defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, a former UConn football assistant.)

The Gamecocks use a deep bench and roster, preferring to run their offense through Boston. It turned out that two of their most productive players came off the bench – guard Raven Johnson, who had 14 points and 7 assists, and center Kamilla Cardoso, who had 17 points and 11 rebounds.

The Huskies are playing a more fluid international game, as one would expect from a starting lineup that included players from five countries – Hungary, Croatia, France, Canada and the United States. Unfortunately, the best Huskies players remained on their bench in gray tracksuits: Paige Bueckers, Azzi Fudd and Caroline Ducharme.

Bueckers, a junior guard who was National Player of the Year as a freshman and carried Connecticut to the title game last spring, is likely out for the season after torn knee ligaments in August. But Fudd, who has missed all but six of the past two months with a knee injury, and Ducharme, an indispensable peripheral threat who has been out since Dec. 31 with a concussion, are expected to return this month- this.

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