Second-ranked USC women look to bounce back against No. 16 Florida

A victory Sunday over No. 22 Kentucky would give head coach Dawn Staley and the seventh-ranked South Carolina women's basketball team at least a share of a fourth straight SEC crown.

File, Sean Rayford/AP

COLUMBIA — In the aftermath of her team’s first loss of the season, South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley sensed not discouragement, but impatience.

“From what I’ve seen in practice,” Staley said Wednesday, “they want to get back out there and get back to the winning ways that we’ve had.”

Second-ranked USC had its 45-game home winning streak ended Monday at the hands of No. 1 Connecticut, which became the first visitor to prevail at Colonial Life Arena since Texas A&M in February of 2013. But the Gamecocks have still won 23 straight SEC games at home, a streak which could be tested in Thursday’s 7 p.m. contest against No. 16 Florida.

The Gators may not be UConn, but they still come to Columbia on a three-game winning streak that includes victories over No. 18 Kentucky and No. 15 Texas A&M. Despite Monday’s loss, the Gamecocks (22-1, 10-0 SEC) remain in command of the conference race, with a three-game lead over their closest pursuer.

USC is trying to win a third straight SEC title, something only two other programs — Auburn and Tennessee — have done. The loss to UConn does not alter that quest for a Gamecocks program that’s won 39 of its last 42 SEC games.

“Our goals are still out there on the table,” said USC forward A’ja Wilson. “We’re kind of mad that we lost, but we’ve just got to bounce back.”

Wilson wore an air cast on her lower left left leg in practice Wednesday, a result of the shin bruise suffered against Connecticut that forced her to miss part of that game. USC’s leading scorer will wear a brace Thursday against the Gators (19-4, 7-3).

“I’ve been doing a lot of treatment, in and out of the training facility, and they’re getting me right,” said Wilson, who has battled shin splints for much of this season. “It’s been good so far.”

Forward Jatarie White missed practice Wednesday with an illness, and Staley said wing Asia Dozier will miss a third straight game with a right wrist injury suffered Jan. 31 at Texas A&M. “The pain is getting a lot better,” Staley said of Dozier’s condition.

And the Gamecocks look to get well against Florida, whom they’ve beaten six straight times. USC is 9-1 against ranked opponents this season, that lone setback coming to the 10-time national champions Monday night.

“They don’t take losing well,” Staley said of her team. “But at the same time, they put things in perspective, and we move on.”