COLUMBIA — In South Carolina ladies’s basketball’s 94-42 rout of Auburn on Thursday at Colonial Life Enviornment, level guards Kierra Fletcher and Raven Johnson recorded very totally different however equally impactful stat traces.
Fletcher, who began and performed 20 minutes, recorded a season-high 5 assists, a steal, her second block of the season and her first 3-pointer of the season. She had her second-highest scoring efficiency a Gamecock, capturing 3-of-5 for seven factors.
Johnson, who performed quarter-hour, led the group’s season-high 25 assists with seven and led in steals with three. She additionally logged a block and three defensive rebounds, thought she shot simply 1-of-3 from the sphere for 2 factors.
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“What we have been engaged on is making an attempt to transform and make the fitting cross, and the ball ought to discover who ought to shoot it. We did job tonight,” coach Daybreak Staley mentioned. “Kierra is simply actually choosing it up. I feel she’s much more snug, and I feel Raven is much more snug as properly.”
Totally different however equally impactful has been the story of the season for the Gamecocks level guards, who entered the 2022-23 season with the expectations of Destanni Henderson’s impression hanging over them. Henderson, who now performs for the Indiana Fever, helped lead South Carolina to the nationwide title final season with a career-high 26 factors within the championship recreation.
Each Fletcher and Johnson got here into this season with query marks. Fletcher, a graduate switch from Georgia Tech, missed all the 2021-22 season with a foot damage and was nonetheless getting again into type firstly of this season. Johnson, a redshirt freshman, suffered a season-ending left knee damage after showing in simply two video games and solely just lately shed the knee brace that she wore for the primary a number of video games of 2022-23.
“I undoubtedly assume I am settling in much more, and I really feel it once I’m taking part in,” Fletcher mentioned after beating Auburn. “My dad truly texted me and mentioned it appears to be like like I am taking part in a little bit bit extra settled in as properly. I am simply making an attempt to make nice performs for my teammates. I really like rebounding … and simply additionally making an attempt to make higher passes into the submit. That is one thing me and coach have talked about, so I have been making an attempt to do higher at that from the purpose guard place.”
The 2 level guards have performed virtually equal minutes this season, with Fletcher averaging quarter-hour per recreation to Johnson’s 14. Fletcher has been a extra important scoring risk, capturing 42.3% from the sphere and averaging slightly below 5 factors per recreation, whereas Johnson shoots a team-low 24.5% from the sphere. Fletcher additionally leads in rebounds, averaging 3.6 to Johnson’s 2.4, however the redshirt freshman is a stronger ballhandler averaging 3.3 assists to Fletcher’s two.
Whereas the 2 are aggressive with one another — they actively vied for the beginning spot by a lot of the non-conference slate — Fletcher mentioned the pair’s variations give them a better stage of mutual respect for one another and their respective roles within the Gamecocks’ rotation.
“We go at it in follow on a regular basis, however I lean on her and he or she leans on me,” Fletcher mentioned. “I be taught quite a bit from her. I all the time inform her, I want I may cross like she does. She simply sees the ground so in another way. I am all the time wanting on the method she’s taking part in in addition to she does with me, and I feel each of us deliver dynamics to the group that gels very well.”
The pliability between level guards additionally offers the group alternatives to weaponize its depth in numerous lineups: Johnson and junior middle Kamilla Cardoso, for instance, work properly collectively within the offense, so Staley tries to work them onto the court docket concurrently a lot as attainable.
“They run the group a little bit bit totally different: Kierra is a bit more methodical and Raven is a bit more freewheeling in getting the ball to folks the place they are often efficient,” Staley mentioned. “Her and Kamilla do have a extremely good connection, and hopefully they’re going to each proceed to be taught and develop and make us higher.”