South Carolina’s defensive stopper has shown her abilities as an offensive weapon in the past two games.
Senior guard Brea Beal averaged 12.5 points, seven rebounds and 3.5 assists against LSU and Florida, marking the third time in her career that she has scored 10 or more points in back-to-back games.
Beal’s averaging 5.9 points per game for the undefeated No. 1 Gamecocks, short of her career-best mark of 7.1. She always has been more of a defender than a scorer, but when the opportunities arise, she lets the offense flow naturally.
“I think it’s always been a matter of finding my spots,” Beal said. “My game has never been forceful. It’s really trying to open up when teams play defenses on us.”
Beal scored 14 points against then-No. 3 LSU on Sunday and added 11 points against Florida on Thursday, both home wins. The three 3-pointers she made against the Gators marked the second time she’s made that many in a game this season.
Her career high of 22 points came during her sophomore season against Arkansas and was her lone 20-point game. Playing alongside Ty Harris, Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, Zia Cooke and Aliyah Boston, it was never a necessity for Beal to be the Gamecocks’ leading shot-taker.
But USC coach Dawn Staley takes no issue with her finding her offense.
“She’s got the green light,” Staley said. “She’s not one that will take advantage of that. She’s a really good passer. She’s starting to just blossom a lot more on the offensive end. Just attacking the basket, hitting her three, passing the basketball coupled with what she does on the defensive side of the ball.”
Beal has established herself as a defensive stalwart. She, along with Boston, was announced as a top-15 candidate for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.
Her expression while playing defense on LSU’s Kateri Poole went viral on Twitter. Beal was smiling while locking up the Tigers’ guard.
As much success as she’s seen on defense, her ability to create offense and space the floor has been vital to South Carolina’s efforts.
Since 2019, the Gamecocks are 19-0 with a 26.4-point win margin in games where Beal has scored 10 or more points.
The outside shooting from Beal has been a difference maker for USC. She’s shooting a career-high 41.8% from 3-point range, the best on the team among those with at least 20 attempts.
“Just thinking it’s been four years, and where do I want to be next year?” Beal told ESPN after a Jan. 19 win against Vanderbilt. “Do I want to give myself a chance to compete at a pro level? I think it just starts with that summer, getting in shots day in and day out. Asking Coach (Staley) what do I need to do to become a pro and practice pro habits.”
The team looks virtually unbeatable as the postseason nears. When Beal is on from 3-point range, stopping the Gamecocks (26-0, 13-0 SEC) becomes much more difficult.
Sometimes the 3-pointers have been clutch, like the ones she made in the fourth quarters against Stanford and UConn and a third-quarter shot to take the lead against Georgia.
A four-year starter at South Carolina, Beal’s all-around game is really coming together. And the Gamecocks are glad that it is.
“I think you’re seeing someone that’s blossoming late,” Staley said. “It couldn’t come at a better time for her in her career.”
NEXT SOUTH CAROLINA WBB GAMES
Sunday: at Ole Miss, 4 p.m. (SEC Network)
Thursday: at Tennessee, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Feb. 26: home vs. Georgia, noon (ESPN2)
TBD: SEC tournament