Mitchell in, Dozier out for USC against UConn

USC’s Tiffany Mitchell returned to practice and will play Monday vs. UConn.

It’s going to take much more than a bruised back to keep Tiffany Mitchell out of Monday’s showdown against No. 1 Connecticut.

“My arm is going to have to be broken,” South Carolina’s senior All-American guard said Saturday. “I’d have to have one eye, one leg to not play in this game.”

Her status certainly seemed in question Thursday, when she hit the floor hard driving the lane against Kentucky, and did not play the second half with what USC termed a lower back bruise. Mitchell returned to practice Saturday for the second-ranked Gamecocks, and is expected to be in the starting lineup for Monday’s 7 p.m. game.

“I’m a little banged up, but I’ve been getting treatment every day so I can get ready for this game,” she said.

Mitchell, USC’s second-leading scorer at 14.6 points per game, has started every game since her sophomore year. While the Gamecocks (22-0) will have the two-time SEC Player of the Year against the Huskies (22-0), they’ll again be without senior wing Asia Dozier, who will miss her second consecutive contest with a right hand injury suffered Jan. 31 at Texas A&M.

“She won’t play on Monday,” head coach Dawn Staley said of the senior from Columbia, who’s started 11 games this season and averages 3.2 points. “I’m not going to put her in a position where she hasn’t played in a few days and just throw her out there. That’s not fair to her.”

The matchup of the only two unbeaten teams in women’s basketball is sold out, with a crowd of 18,000 expected Monday at Colonial Life Arena. That would be the largest crowd ever to see the USC women play, and the largest crowd for an NCAA women’s basketball game this season.

“I don’t know if UConn will be intimidated by our crowd or the situation. They’ve been in those situations before,” said Staley, whose team has won 45 straight at home. “But I don’t know if they’ve played before 18,000 people in a regular-season game. Maybe that gives us a little bit of an edge just being at home.”