SEC contenders aim at defending NCAA champ Gamecocks

Oct 25, 2022, 8:03 PM | Updated: Oct 26, 2022, 8:09 am

FILE - South Carolina forward Aliyah Boston dribbles the ball during the first half of the team's N...

FILE - South Carolina forward Aliyah Boston dribbles the ball during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Stanford on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021, in Columbia, S.C. Boston is a unanimous choice to the women's Associated Press preseason All-America team, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford, File)

(AP Photo/Sean Rayford, File)

Tennessee coach Kellie Harper hasn’t forgotten the recipe for success she learned as a three-time NCAA champion for the late Pat Summitt: Put aside past accomplishments and continue striving for more.

Harper and the rest of the Southeastern Conference are on the other side of that these days, chasing down the league’s powerhouse program — and reigning national champion — in top-ranked South Carolina.

As much as Harper believes her program can compete with anyone, she knows there are plenty of steps along the way before reaching the championship stage. You can’t worry about April in October, Harper says.

“Speaking from experience, you can’t skip steps, you can’t,” said Harper, whose team starts the season ranked fifth. “You just have to enjoy each and every day. You have to enjoy the journey together, the ups and downs because that’s what builds championship teams.”

Tennessee was 18-1 and on top of the SEC last season before injuries cost them, the biggest one to its top player Jordan Horston. The Lady Vols finished 7-8 and were beaten in the Sweet 16.

Horston is healthy and among four starters back this season.

LSU’s Kim Mulkey was named AP national coach of the year for leading the biggest turnaround by a first-year coach in SEC history. Mulkey was hired before the 2021-22 season after LSU went 9-13. The Tigers finished 26-6 this past season.

Mulkey lost 80% of the team’s scoring from last year and hit the transfer portal. She brought in Angel Reese from Maryland, LaDazhia Williams from Missouri who played at South Carolina her first two seasons and Last-Tear Poa, considered the country’s top junior college transfer.

“We lost a tremendous senior class last year, a lot of points and a lot of production,” Mulkey said. “So we had to fill a lot of needs and we did that.”

South Carolina was not invincible last season, losing the SEC Tournament title to Kentucky, 64-62, prior to NCAA play. Wildcats coach Kyra Elzy said that success brought her returning players confidence and more attention from talented recruits.

“It’s a lot easier to go into a recruit’s house when you’re winning and you have a (championship) net around your neck,” Elzy said.


South Carolina returns four starters from last year’s NCAA Tournament winners, including consensus player of the year and Final Four most outstanding player in Aliyah Boston. The Gamecocks have won two NCAA crowns, six SEC Tournament titles and six league regular-season championships since 2014.


The SEC will be missing one of its all-time greats in Kentucky’s Rhyne Howard, who was twice the coach’s pick for SEC player of the year. Howard was the No. 1 overall pick by WNBA’s Atlanta Dream and the league’s rookie of the year. Elzy said it’s impossible to replace Howard, but the Wildcats will try with a group effort this season.


There are four SEC schools with new coaches although not all of them are strangers to the league. Georgia’s Joni Taylor moved to Texas A&M to replace retired national champion Gary Blair. Katie Abrahamson-Henderson took Taylor’s spot with the Bulldogs. Kelly Rae Finley was Florida’s interim coach last season and earned full-time job after the Gators’ went 21-10. At Mississippi State, longtime Louisville assistant Sam Purcell will lead the Bulldogs.


South Carolina, Tennessee and LSU were 1-2-3 in the SEC preseason poll. Arkansas was fourth, followed by Mississippi, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Georgia and Alabama, Texas A&M was 11th followed by Missouri, Auburn and Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks’ Aliyah Boston was chosen preseason player of the year and part of the all-SEC first team along with teammate Zia Cooke and three Tennessee players in Jordan Horston, Rickea Jackson and Tamari Key.


There will be several must-see early matchups: The Gamecocks will play No. 17 Maryland and No. 2 Stanford in November, then have a NCAA title game rematch with No. 6 UConn in February. Tennessee plays No. 14 Ohio State and No. 11 Indiana in the first month with games against Stanford, UConn and No. 13 Virginia Tech down the road. Arkansas has consecutive games with No. 21 Creighton and No. 20 Oregon in December.


AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

1 year ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

1 year ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

1 year ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

1 year ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

1 year ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

1 year ago

SEC contenders aim at defending NCAA champ Gamecocks