PHILADELPHIA — A’ja Wilson wouldn’t let Dawn Staley’s homecoming be spoiled.
Wilson had 28 points, 12 rebounds and eight blocks to help No. 4 South Carolina rout Temple 87-60 on Thursday night.
“Our team said in the pregame huddle, let’s do it for coach,” Wilson said. “It’s her homecoming. We wanted to put it on.”
Staley grew up in Philadelphia, a mile from Temple where she coached from 2000-08. On Wednesday, the city celebrated her, renaming a few blocks Dawn Staley Lane as a day in her honor was celebrated at the Hank Gathers Recreation Center.
She gave the center, where the Hall of Famer honed her game growing up, a replica NCAA championship trophy similar to the one her team won in April.
The game against Temple was Staley’s first against the school since she left for South Carolina following the 2008 season. Staley broke Nancy Wilson’s program record with her 232nd victory.
“It’s ironic how it all plays out,” Staley said. “It was just great to have Candice (Dupree’s) jersey retired and to come back and share in the national championship with the recreation center I grew up with. … Seemed like the perfect fit for today.”
The Gamecocks (11-1) raced out to a 26-9 lead behind Wilson. She outscored the Owls 10-9 in the quarter. South Carolina led 46-20 at the half and cruised to the easy win.
Tyasha Harris had 13 points and 11 assists for South Carolina.
Mia Davis had 19 points and 10 rebounds for Temple (8-4). Tanaya Atkinson added 14 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
“We knew coming into this game it would be a difficult matchup for us because of their size,” Temple coach Tonya Cardoza said. “We decided to pack it in and hope they miss shots. They came out and made shots. Wilson is just a tough matchup for anyone, arguably the best player in college basketball.”
HONORING DUPREE: Temple retired Candice Dupree’s No. 4 jersey at halftime. It was only the second time in school history a women’s basketball player was bestowed that honor. Dupree starred for the Owls from 2002-06 and is the school’s career field goal percentage leader (51.4 percent). She’s third on the scoring list (1,698), third in rebounds (968) and tied for second in blocks (218). Staley had her team stay out and watch the halftime ceremony honoring her former player.
TRANSFER WAIVER: Te’a Cooper is still waiting to hear if her petition to the NCAA to become immediately eligible has been approved. She transferred to South Carolina from Tennessee last year and the Gamecocks are arguing that because Cooper was sidelined with a knee injury last year, forcing her to sit out a season will cost her an extra year of eligibility. The Gamecocks submitted the request earlier this week.
South Carolina: Wilson set the school record for free throws made (484) in her career and free throws attempted (684). Shannon Johnson held both previous records with 478 makes on 679 attempts.
Temple: Cardoza passed Staley as the school’s all-time winningest coach on Jan. 1, 2017. Cardoza has 196 wins while her former teammate at Virginia had 172. Debbie Ryan, the coach of the two former Virginia stars, was in attendance on Thursday, sitting behind the Temple bench.
South Carolina: Opens SEC play against Texas A&M on Dec. 31.
Temple: Opens American Athletic Conference play at Central Florida on Dec. 30.
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