Opponent: #9/10 Kentucky (13-2, 1-1 SEC) Date: Thursday, January 9, 2014, 7 p.m. Site: Columbia, S.C. Arena:Colonial Life Arena (18,000) Tickets: $7 adult, $4 youth (17 and under) TV: None Radio: WNKT 107.5 FM/WISW 1320 AM (Brad Muller); GamecocksOnline.com Live Video:GamecocksOnline.com (Free) Live Stats:GamecocksOnline.com Series History: UK leads 31-19
South Carolina Notables
South Carolina opened SEC play 2-0 for just the third time since joining the league in 1991-92, but two of those seasons have been in the last three campaigns - 2011-12 and 2013-14.
The Gamecock offense is built from the inside-out, and South Carolina has found success in both areas. The Gamecocks have scored 38.0 points per game in the paint - just over 50 percent of their 75.7 points per game overall - and are shooting 34.7 percent from 3-point range, which is the best mark since 2009-10. Sophomore guard Tiffany Mitchell is the team's top scorer at 15.4 points per game, to rank ninth in the SEC, but three post players also average double figures - Aleighsa Welch (13.7 ppg, 15th in SEC), Alaina Coates (12.4, 23rd in SEC) and Elem Ibiam (10.2).
Center Alaina Coates earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors after kicking off her debut SEC season with a pair of double-doubles last week, including a career-high 24 points against Vanderbilt. She is the only freshman to rank among the league's top 20 rebounders and top 25 scorers.
A South Carolina Win Would...
Be the Gamecocks' second-straight over Kentucky in Colonial Life Arena.
Give the Gamecocks a 3-0 SEC record for the second time in the last three seasons.
By the Numbers
1 Team with three players ranked among the SEC's top 15 in blocked shots - South Carolina (Elem Ibiam, 2.3, 2nd; Alaina Coates, 2.1, 3rd; Aleighsa Welch, 1.0, 14th) 1 Gamecock freshman in school history to post double-doubles in her first two SEC games - Alaina Coates 1.4 Average places by which the SEC coaches have under-rated South Carolina in their preseason poll compared to where the Gamecocks actually finished the season in the Dawn Staley era (five seasons) 2 Categories in which South Carolina leads the SEC and ranks fourth in the nation - blocked shots per game (6.4) and field goal percentage (.489) 2 SEC teams to win their conference games at home on Sunday - South Carolina and Texas A&M 3 Gamecocks who rank among the SEC's top 25 scorers - joining Ole Miss and Tennessee as the only teams with that many entries 7 Individual 20-point games this season by the Gamecock - four by Alaina Coates (CSU, at SDSU, SC State, Vandy), two by Tiffany Mitchell (at USC, Winthrop) and one by Aleighsa Welch (vs. UNC) 8 Games in which South Carolina has shot at least 50.0 percent from the field this season after reaching the mark just 12 times in the previous five seasons under Staley 9 Games this season in which South Carolina has scored at least 50.0 percent of its points in the paint, including scoring 70 of 99 points against Charleston Southern (Nov. 8) inside 14 Games in South Carolina history that included two top-10 teams - the Gamecocks are 6-8 in those games 34 Weeks in which the Gamecocks have ranked 10th or higher in the Associated Press poll all-time, including three this season. South Carolina's best ever ranking was No. 2, which it held for three weeks in December 1981.
Kentucky Series Notes
The Wildcats lead the series 31-9 after the teams split last season's two games, each winning in its home court. In Columbia, the Gamecocks are 14-9 against the Wildcats, including wins in three of the last four meetings at Colonial Life Arena.
In the last two seasons, the average margin of victory between South Carolina and Kentucky is 5.0 points with none of the four games decided by more than eight points. In the last three seasons, the winning team has escaped by just an average of 7.7 points with just one game resulting in a double-digit win.
Last season, then-No. 18 South Carolina defeated the fifth-ranked Wildcats 55-50 at Colonial Life Arena on Jan. 24. The game was tied at halftime, and Kentucky led for much of the second half, but could not pull away. After the game's sixth tie at 44-44 with 5:53 to play, the Gamecocks launched an 8-0 run of the next three minutes that included key defensive rebounds by the guards. UK's A'dia Mathies netted the game's next six points, but the Gamecocks hit free throws down the stretch to ice the win.
The Feb. 14 game in Lexington saw South Carolina leap out to a 44-30 lead at the break as the Gamecocks shot 56.3 percent from the field while holding the No. 9 Wildcats to just 30.8 percent. The tables turned in the second half, though, with UK methodically cutting down its deficit. Mathies' 3-pointer with 3:53 to play was the Wildcats' first lead of the night. Khadijah Sessions tied the game at 72-72 with 1:14 to play, but the Wildcats were perfect at the free throw line in the final 20 seconds to secure the 78-74 win. The Gamecocks shot 55.6 percent from the field in the second half, but saw 13 turnovers in the period limit them to just 18 field goal attempts to UK's 32.
South Carolina has been involved in 14 games in which both teams are ranked in the Associated Press top 10 in its history. The Gamecocks are 6-8 in those outings with the last one coming at Tennessee on Jan. 17, 2002, when South Carolina took its No. 8 ranking into Knoxville against the second-ranked Lady Vols. Prior to that game, the last top-10 matchup was back in the 1981-82 season with No. 1 Louisiana Tech besting No. 2 South Carolina 71-58 in Columbia. That season also saw the Gamecocks' last win in a top-10 battle with No. 2 South Carolina defeating No. 6 Rutgers on Jan. 6, 1982 in Columbia.
Overall, South Carolina has a 20-109 record against teams in the AP top 10 at the time of the game with 18 of those games coming in the Dawn Staley era. In the last two seasons, the Gamecocks are 2-4 against top-10 teams, including last season's home win against then-No. 5 Kentucky.
For the first time in her tenure at South Carolina, head coach Dawn's Staley's Gamecocks look different - on the court and in the box score. After seasons of building around defense, Staley finally as a group that is designed for offensive efficiency. The Gamecocks are scoring more (75.7 ppg) and more efficiently (.489 FG %age - 1st in SEC, 4th in nation) than at any time in the Staley era. And, after seasons of talented guards generating their own offense, Staley's 2013-14 success is predicated on getting the ball inside - three primary post players combine to score 47.9 percent of the team's points - and on ball movement creating the best shots as 61.6 percent of made field goals have been assisted.
Defense is still a staple of the program with the Gamecocks ranking second in the SEC and third in the nation, allowing just 49.9 points per game. Only five opponents this season have scored 55 or more points against South Carolina.