Live blog from Colonial Life Arena: Spurrier, Finebaum, and counting down to USC vs. UConn

No. 2 South Carolina hosts No. 1 Connecticut at 7 p.m. at a sold-out Colonial Life Arena. (Travis Bell/SIDELINE CAROLINA)


So, this place is ready to blow. The building went nuts just over a video of USC head coach Dawn Staley thanking fans for their support. The Gamecocks have a 45-game home winning streak on the line, and it’s going to be seriously tested tonight against the Huskies, who are 100-1 over the past three seasons.

UConn unsurprisingly received plenty of boos when they came out for warm-ups, but they’re more than used to playing in this kind of atmosphere. The captains have been briefed by officials Lisa Mattingly, Bryan Enterline and Sue Blauch. The teams have returned to their respective locker rooms. We’re moments away.

Starters for USC: guards Khadijah Sessions, Tiffany Roy and Tiffany Mitchell, forward A’ja Wilson and Alaina Coates. Staters for UConn: guards Moriah Jefferson, Kia Nurse and Katie Lou Samuelson, and forwards Morgan Tuck and Breanna Stewart.

One side note: It was just announced over the public address that USC’s spring football game is April 9 at noon. Plan accordingly.

OK, the time for talk is over. Only a matter of minutes before the lights go out. This is going to be fun. Make sure and check back with for updates at halftime and after the game.

6 p.m.

We’re an hour away, the gates are open, and people are flooding in. Paul Finebaum is wrapping up his SEC Network show, which aired live from the arena, an early featured former Gamecocks head football coach Steve Spurrier as a guest. The ex-Head Ball Coach wore a garnet jacket and palmetto tree lapel pin, with good reason: he said he’s now working as an “ambassador” to USC, a option he had in his contract upon his resignation.

Athletic director Ray “Tanner, I’m sort of assistant to (him) and the president,” Spurrier told Finebaum. “Whatever they need me to do, I’m ready to promote South Carolina, and especially our basketball teams. If I’m going to be an associate AD, I want to be an associate AD for women’s basketball. That would be my request.”

I’ve yet to nail down whether “associate AD” is Spurrier’s new title, but it’s clear he understands his new role. “I’m like an ambassador to the school, or whatever,” he told Finebaum. “At halftime (of the USC-UConn game), I’m going to go up (to the suites) and shake a few hands and take a few pictures.”

Spurrier also had plenty to say (no surprise) about his resignation and what led to it. A lot of this is covered ground, but you might find his comments interesting nonetheless. Here they are:

“That certainly wasn’t the way I wanted to go out. But given the circumstances, gosh, in the situation, I just thought it was best. I’m one of those guys, I want to do it now. I don’t want to wait six weeks from now.

“I was not doing a very good job here. I thought we had a good team ready. We did not have a good team ready. We were still at the bottom of the league in just about every defensive category, and our offense wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. Only two years ago, we were No. 4 in the nation. So we dropped off pretty quickly. Sometimes it happens that way. At my age, and the years I had done it, obviously i was finished.

“I’m convinced I did the right thing, because the team played better. The local media says the guys played well, they just could not quite win those games.

“We all have an expiration date, and I missed mine. Mine should have been after the Miami game. We’d won four bowl games in a row, never had a losing season here, and gosh, I thought we had a team (coming back) that should have a winning season. It just didn’t work out. So the circumstances of where I was, I thought I did the right thing. I didn’t think this team was listening very well to me. I wasn’t doing a very good job. So I kind of fired myself. I thought I should be fired.”

Counting down. More later.

5:30 p.m.

Greetings from Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, where we’re now less than 90 minutes from tip-off between No. 1 Connecticut and No. 2 South Carolina. The place is still mostly empty, but no question, this game feels different. There are throngs of people lined up outside, have been since yours truly arrived two hours before the game. And the press room is already packed, to the point where I’ll be writing from a satellite location outside Springdale.

OK, maybe it’s not that bad. But it’s going to be a scene in here at tip off with 18,0000 people in attendance, makign this the largest crowd ever to see a women’s game at USC, and in the NCAA this year.

And SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum is off in one corner broadcasting his show live, with USC head football coach Will Muschamp as his guest at the moment. We’ll provide more updates as we get closer to tip-off, with one on Steve Spurrier’s comments to Finebaum earlier today.

Buckle in! Should be a fun night. More to come.