South Carolina players love coach Staley's Lifesaver habit
STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) Don't mess with Dawn Staley's large stash of Lifesavers on the sidelines. No way.
Her South Carolina players insist she yells at them less often when her mouth is packed with candy.
''She'll just eat a Lifesaver and think about what she wants to say before she says it, which we can be very thankful for,'' guard Kaela Davis said Friday as the top-seeded Gamecocks prepared for the Stockton Regional.
It used to be, during her playing days at Virginia, the uber-intense Staley was known for snapping a rubberband on her right wrist when she made mistakes. Now, she finds other coping mechanisms.
''Stuffing her mouth with Lifesavers, I think that's a switch. I think every time I look at her, her mouth is all, like just filled with Lifesavers and she's yelling at us,'' chuckled junior forward A'ja Wilson. ''I think that's just the flip of the rubber band. And she spits it out sometimes and it's nasty. Don't tell her I said that. ... Keeps her from yelling at us so loud.''
Whatever the quirks, Staley has the Gamecocks on another special March run - even if the team had to travel cross-country to Northern California for the Stockton Regional. South Carolina (29-4) is in the Sweet 16 for a fourth straight time and fifth during Staley's eight years at the school and set to face surprising No. 12 seed Quinnipiac (29-6) on Saturday at the Stockton Regional. The Gamecocks are seeking their first Final Four berth in three years, with sights on the program's first NCAA championship.
From fruity to minty and even some butterscotch hard candies to mix it up, equipment manager Chris Matlock keeps the bulk-sized bags of treats in a big gear bag whenever three plastic containers need refilling. Staley goes through approximately 20 per game by massage therapist Alonzo Moore's unofficial count.
Second-seeded Oregon State (31-4) will face No. 3 seed Florida State (27-6) in the second regional semifinal Saturday afternoon at Stockton Arena.
Here are some things to watch for in Saturday's games:
Upstart, upset-minded Quinnipiac - KWIHN'-ih-pee-ak - already took down Marquette and Miami this tournament to become just the fourth women's No. 12 seed to reach the Sweet 16. The Bobcats became the first women's sports team at the school to win an NCAA game and are the lowest seed still alive.
''We're really grateful for it and we're going to leave it all out on the floor,'' senior forward Morgan Manz said. ''However long it takes, we'll hopefully get another upset.''
Now that these women have a pair of 30-win seasons and three trips to the NCAA Tournament in the past five years, the Bobcats want to keep going on basketball's big stage. UConn coach Geno Auriemma even sported a Quinnipiac T-shirt Friday to support the other women's basketball team in the state still playing .
''There's no doubt in our mind that we can pull off another upset,'' forward Jen Fay said.
Oregon State's Sydney Wiese has admired Florida State from afar. Teammate Gabriella Hanson faced Seminoles star Leticia Romero in international competition.
The Beavers barely missed a chance to play Florida State at the Dallas Regional last season, when the Seminoles lost to Baylor and Oregon State then beat the Bears to reach its first Final Four.
Tough not to notice when ACC Player of the Year Shakayla Thomas can dunk.
Oregon State coach Scott Rueck notes ''it's a program that has demanded attention.''
Sue Semrau's senior-led Florida State team is playing in the program's third straight Sweet 16.
''They have always been fun to watch,'' Wiese said.
Staley ruled guard Allisha Gray good to go after she was carried off the court late in South Carolina's 71-68 comeback win against Arizona State on Sunday with an injury that wasn't as serious as first feared. She experienced a charley horse in her hamstring, but was able to go through a full practice Thursday upon arriving in Stockton.
The Gamecocks are already dealing with depth issues following the loss of all-SEC center Alaina Coates because of an ankle injury she first sustained Feb. 19 against Missouri and has lingered.
Oregon State had the shortest road to Northern California after winning two games at home in Corvallis. Quinnipiac went home to a wild welcome - hundreds of fans have been packing TD Bank Sports Center to view the games on the big screen and another watch party is planned for Saturday - and was one of three teams to make cross-country trips to California.
''We're in our same time zone, and how special is that?'' said Rueck, joined by 13-year-old son, Cole, and father, Marv.
IF SEEDS SURVIVE
If South Carolina and Oregon State advance, it will be a rematch of the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament won 78-69 by the Gamecocks in Seattle.
For more AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-Top25