The way Raven Johnson has become USC’s two-way sparkplug for the SEC game
Redshirt Guard freshman Raven Johnson ran the show for No. 1 South Carolina inside the rowdy Memorial Coliseum on Thursday night.At the beginning of the game, Kentucky fans booed following every Wildcat bucket and harassed the Gamecocks every time they switched the ball. However, USC’s young quarterback blocked out the sound and led an 85-point Gamecock offense. “I do not believe that the crowd had any effect on us,” Johnson said. “We know that we’re the top team, therefore, it was simply showing up with a game plan.” USC’s victory of 95–66 didn’t come without some challenges. USC was able to withstand a 16-0 run by the Wildcats, which began at the end of the first quarter and continued throughout the second quarter.
Johnson’s performance helped ignite South Carolina’s first 16-0 run during the third quarter. which gave USC the advantage that it would not give up for the rest of the match. She did this with her performance on both sides of the court. Johnson finished with seven assists, nine points, and three steals over 19 minutes of playing off the bench. Johnson often converted steals into layups, both for herself and for her teammates. In the halfcourt game, there was not a single open Gamecock that Johnson didn’t spot, and she surpassed the seven-assist mark for the third time this season.
Johnson is an integral part of the team’s “energizers.” Johnson takes satisfaction in finding new ways to generate offence for the Gamecocks. In some cases, it starts with defense. Defense is something that Johnson “takes to the core,” and it’s beginning to manifest. Her mother allegedly used to make her play drills as a child that required her to catch tennis balls in order to improve her skills.”So I’m thinking that’s the reason I develop fast hands,” Johnson said. “And I also have speed.” “I’ve always been quick.”
Johnson provided a similar performance in the victory over Mississippi State on Sunday. When she faced the Bulldogs, Johnson racked up steals and then either completed the play by herself or had teammates help knock down shots at the break. She’s made a habit of these performance-enhancing performances from the bench. She ended the match with a win in Starkville, having scored seven points with five rebounds and two steals. “She’s acting more like her,” Staley said. “That’s not the same person she was just a month ago.” I think she’s able to comprehend our team a bit more. She’s very comfortable, has several matches under her belt, and now I’m sure she’s really grasping how important she could be to the team.”
Johnson appeared in only two games as a true freshman last season before suffering a knee injury.She was wearing knee braces for the initial eight games in 2022–2023 but hasn’t required them since then, and her confidence has been increasing. “She’s an extremely, very excellent athlete,” senior guard Zia Cooke told the media. “I believe that game by game, we’ll continue to discover how good she really can be.” Johnson’s game shone through in her fourth-quarter assist to junior guard Bree Hall.Johnson stole the ball from the Wildcat ball handler and drove towards the basket, thinking briefly about taking the ball back. Johnson didn’t miss one shot in her four attempts Thursday, which is why the Wildcats tried to stop her from scoring another coast-to-coast finish. “Oh, they’re trying to find a chance to get me and score!” Johnson thought. She reacted by swiping the ball across the court with just one hand, giving Hall the perfect finish. Johnson’s thrilling play caught the eye of the Hall of Fame’s Sheryl Swoopes, who praised it on Twitter. Johnson has been the team’s assist leader, averaging 3.2 dimes per match. Although her youthfulness may manifest itself occasionally, the improvement in her efficiency and comfort has given USC an entirely new dimension. “Basketball isn’t a sport that has an age limit, really,” she said. “If you’re willing to play, you are able to play.” “This is how I feel.”
I am a fan of @GamecockWBB Raven Johnson!!! My goodness….a true PG! Can do it all. Shoot, defend and drop times. Great court vision👀.— Sheryl Swoopes (@airswoopes22) January 13, 2023