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Nov. 17, 2004

Columbia, S.C. – Each week, broadcaster Andy Demetra gives an all-access look at Gamecock Women’s Basketball in his new column “Beyond The Mic.” Join him Wednesdays throughout the season, as he serves up his insights on the team, its travels, and its triumphs.

Beyond the Mic

While walking through Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport, Lauren Simms clicked her tongue and lamented that she hadn’t picked up any souvenirs during the team’s trip to Seattle.

Except she was already wearing them.

With 1:40 left in Carolina’s game against UNLV, Simms – who is a church mouse off the court and a gym rat on it – dove for a loose ball. A Lady Rebels player landed on top of her, busting open her lip. Simms needed seven stitches to close the wound.

“I was scared at first, because I thought it was my tooth,” Simms told me. “I just got up and saw blood dripping and people said they thought it was my tooth. I was looking around. It hurt so bad.”

Despite the sewing, Simms finished with 21 points and was named to the WBCA BTI Classic All-Tournament Team.

Bloodied, but unbowed. That could also describe the Gamecocks this weekend.

Though they lost twice, to Washington and UNLV, they emerged with a clearer sense of what needs to be done to win this season.

“We realized how much heart and dedication you need in order to get a win, and especially I think valuing the basketball. That’s one thing we have to work on,” junior co-captain Sarah Burgess said. The Gamecocks committed 30 turnovers in their season-opening 65-53 loss to Washington. They cut that number to 19 the next night against UNLV.

“Coach pointed out that we gave Washington 33 extra points from turnovers and rebounds. I think that was really critical,” said Simms.

Carolina also showed off the sometimes dueling traits of youth and depth. Four players (Lakesha Tolliver, Lea Fabbri, Shannel Harris, and Ilona Burgrova) made their first career starts. All 12 players saw meaningful minutes. The Gamecocks had a nine-point lead in the second half against Washington, a team that beat #14 Minnesota a day later.

But with such a young team – no seniors and only two juniors – losses are part of the learning process. Head coach Susan Walvius knows that.

“Our offense right now isn’t very good, but it will be. I’m encouraged by the personnel that we have and that’s just going to take a little bit of time.

“I think we’re going to be a lot better of a team in two weeks from now, because of the experience that we had in Seattle,” Walvius said.

Gamecock fans will soon agree.

Seen and Heard – Seattle, WA

Seen: Seattle clichés. Among the sights spied this weekend: the Space Needle (not as tall as you’d think), flying fish (at the famous Pike Place market), an anti-war protest a few blocks from the team hotel, and clouds. Lots of them.

Scored: 30 tickets to Sunday’s Sonics-Grizzlies game. Credit assistant coach Michelle Marciniak for the hook-up. She played two seasons with the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, and used her connections to snag the seats. Apparently, Seattle fans still have a lot of love for Marciniak. Several people were spotted with Marciniak’s old #3 Storm jersey at the season opener.

Autographed: Plates at the team meal Saturday. After some outstanding seafood, the players and coaches were asked to sign a pair of plates for the chef. They now hang in his office, along with the plates of other teams that have passed through his restaurant.

Counted: 172 Starbucks in the Seattle yellow pages. That included three within about a quarter-mile radius of the team hotel.

Measured: 6’6″ center Ilona Burgrova wears a size 12 men’s shoe. She demurred at the notion, but not trainer Pattie McGinn. Said McGinn: “I could go canoeing in that thing.”

Andy Demetra is in his second season as the voice of Gamecock Women’s Basketball on 1320 AM WISW.