Four seasons after local basketball star Dawn Staley left the women's coaching job at Temple to fill the vacancy at South Carolina, the Gamecocks finally are achieving the success she enjoyed after taking over the Owls in the spring of 2000.
South Carolina improved to 11-2 and made Staley's second homecoming more enjoyable Wednesday night with a 62-58 nonconference win over Drexel at the Daskalakis Athletic Center.
Unlike their last visit in December 2010, when they were shocked by Boston University in St. Joseph's tournament, the Gamecocks withstood a 14-5 late run by their hosts.
"We came with a lot more experience, and we needed all of it to beat their experience," Staley said of the first meeting between the schools.
The Dragons (5-5) still had a chance, trailing by 60-56 in the last minute before losing the ball twice. However, two foul shots by Hollie Mershon, an Archbishop Carroll graduate, got Drexel to within 60-58 with 7.3 seconds remaining.
Forced to foul, Drexel sent the Gamecocks to the line for the final two points.
"If we had a week to get ready, it wouldn't have helped matters because we can't imitate what they do, but Drexel can't do the same to prepare for us," Staley said.
"But it was a good game to get ready for our Southeastern Conference games."
Ieasia Walker scored 18 points for South Carolina, Markeshia Grant added 17, and La'Keisha Sutton of Trenton scored 10.
Mershon, Tyler Hale, and Kamile Nacickaite each scored 14 points for the Dragons, who next host two-time defending Ivy League champion Princeton on Saturday.
Winning has been a way of life for Staley, the point guard who excelled at every level from Dobbins Tech to Virginia to the WNBA, and as a three-time Olympic gold medalist.
Delaware 60, East Carolina 40 - NCAA scoring leader Elena Delle Donne scored 22 points as the 19th-ranked Blue Hens remained undefeated by beating the Pirates in the first round of the Terrapin Classic in College Park, Md.
Delaware (10-0) will face fifth-ranked Maryland (12-0), the tournament host, in Thursday's final. East Carolina (6-5) will play Lafayette in the consolation game.
Maryland rolled past the Leopards, 84-36.