The Auburn Series
The Tigers lead the series 19-12, although the programs have split the last six meetings. Auburn has won the last two outings, including last season's narrow 80-76 decision on Jan. 8, 2009, in Columbia, during which the Tigers were ranked No. 9 in the country. The last Gamecock win in the series was a 65-63 win in the SEC Tournament on March 1, 2007.
The series is level at 7-7 in games played in Columbia. Prior to last season's Auburn victory at Colonial Life Arena, the Gamecocks claimed a 70-61 home win over the Tigers on Feb. 15, 2007.
Strength of Schedule
Staley stuck to her philosophy of challenging her teams in November and December as a building block for success in January and beyond. The Gamecocks face 22 games against teams that participated in the 2009 postseason, including seven non-conference outings. South Carolina plays 11 games against SEC teams that played in the 2009 NCAA Tournament.
As a result of those decisions by Staley, the Gamecocks' schedule is currently ranked as the sixth-toughest in the nation (as of Jan. 14). Only Stanford, Oklahoma, Michigan State, Rutgers and Tennessee are facing a more strident challenge than South Carolina this season.
South Carolina's RPI is among the highest in the SEC at 32 (as of Jan. 14). Ahead of the Gamecocks are Tennessee (3), Georgia (10), Vanderbilt (19) and LSU (29). Auburn (42) and Kentucky (46) are just behind South Carolina, and Mississippi State (59) and Florida (94) round out the list of league schools with an RPI inside the top 100.
South Carolina is 163-160 all-time in the month of January, helped by a 95-70 (.576) record in home games in the first month of the year. The Gamecocks' best January was a 10-1 mark in the 1979-80 season. Since joining the SEC for the 1991-92 season, South Carolina is 64-96 in the first calendar month. This season, the Gamecocks are 2-2 in January.
Home Sweet Home
South Carolina boasts a .695 all-time winning percentage (322-141) in games played in Columbia. The Gamecocks' best season at home was the 2001-02 campaign, during which they went 17-1 in the first season in what is now known as Colonial Life Arena. South Carolina is currently 76-43 in the building, including a 5-1 mark so far this season.
Thrice as Nice
The Gamecocks are shooting a league-best 46.5 percent from 3-point range through four SEC games this season. That accuracy was helped tremendously by an 8-of-12 showing by the Gamecocks at Alabama, which tied for the best outside shooting accuracy of the Dawn Staley era. For the season, South Carolina has hit 37.2 percent of its 3-point attempts (71-191) to rank third in the league and 30th in the nation.
While junior Valerie Nainima has led the charge from beyond the arc in terms of volume, ranking fourth in the SEC and 33rd in the nation by hitting 2.7 3-pointers per game, it is freshman Ieasia Walker who has been the most lethal Gamecock sniper since SEC play kicked off. After hitting 4-of-13 from long range to open the season, Walker is second in the SEC in 3-point field goal percentage in league play at 60.0 percent (6-of-10).
South Carolina has scored in the 70s five times this season and is a perfect 5-0 in those games. In fact, 70 points appears to be an important threshold for the Gamecocks, who are 6-2 when scoring at least 70 points. Since Dawn Staley took the reins of the program, South Carolina is 10-3 in games in which it scores at least 70 points.
Knockin' `Em Down
As the outside shooting has heated up, the Gamecocks' overall field goal percentage has skyrocketed as well. South Carolina is second in the SEC with 47.3 percent accuracy from the field in league play. The team's overall field goal percentage of .429 is fourth-best in the SEC and 59th-highest in the country.
In the Zone
The Gamecocks scorched the nets at Alabama, hitting 59.6 percent from the field for the game, including a sizzling 64.0 percent in the first half. The nearly 60 percent accuracy was the highest for a South Carolina team since 61.8 percent shooting delivered an 81-40 home victory over Hartford in the first round of the WNIT on March 18, 2007. It was the Gamecocks' best percentage away from their home court since shooting 60.0 percent at East Carolina on Feb. 27, 1989.
After winning the battle of the boards just once in its first five games, South Carolina has out-rebounded its opponent in 10 of its last 11 outings. Among those nine games are an 11-rebound edge over No. 11/12 LSU, which had been out-rebounding opponents by 9.4 boards per game, a 20-rebound advantage over Brown and a two-rebound edge over North Carolina, which had been out-rebounding its opponents by 9.9 boards per game. The Gamecocks are 7-3 in 10 nine games, during which they pulled down 41.3 rebounds per contest compared to 33.3 by their opponents.
Two Gamecocks Among Nation's Best
In NCAA rankings through games of Jan. 14, junior guard Valerie Nainima and freshman center Kelsey Bone found themselves among the nation's best in a total of three statistical categories. Nainima is 33rd in the country in scoring average (18.7) and 33rd in the nation in 3-point field goals made per game (2.8). Bone is the 26th-highest rebounder in the country (10.0 rpg).
Our Pal Val
South Carolina guard Valerie Nainima has been the Gamecocks' leading scorer nine times this season, during which the team has a 5-4 record. She has scored in double figures in every game this season, including six games with 20 or more points.
Nainima led the team in scoring in each of the first three SEC games, netting 13 points against No. 11/12 LSU, 16 at No. 4/4 Tennessee and 21 at Alabama. Following a 14-point effort against Kentucky, she ranks eighth in the league with a 16.0 scoring average in league play. She is shooting 47.9 percent from the field in SEC games, including 47.6 percent from 3-point range.
Freshman center Kelsey Bone dominated the paint against Kentucky, neutralizing the Wildcats' top post player, Victoria Dunlap, in the battle of the SEC's only two players ranked among the league's top 10 in both scoring and rebounding. Bone out-scored Dunlap 23-10, hitting 11-of-14 from the field, and snagged three more rebounds than her opponent.
Bone has led the team in scoring 10 times and rebounding 11 times this season. Amassing five double-doubles so far, she averages just shy of that mark with 14.4 points and an SEC-best 9.9 rebounds per game.
With five Gamecocks reaching double figures in the last two games, sophomore forward Charenee Stephens has been among them both times (10 at Alabama, 11 vs. Kentucky). In the four games played since turning the calendar to 2010, she has been in double figures in either points or rebounds three times. That production has put her among the SEC's best as she ranks ninth in rebounding at 7.5 per game and fifth in field goal percentage (.587). Her 65.2 percent accuracy from the field in SEC play tops the league with the second-ranked player (Tennessee's Kelley Cain) trailing by 4.1 percent.
Freshman Ieasia Walker has opened her SEC season with a bang, raising her game in nearly every statistical category - most notably 3-point shooting. Walker entered league play hitting just 30.8 percent (4-13) from 3-point range, but her timely long-range shots during league play have fallen at a rate of 60.0 percent (6-of-10), second-best in the SEC. Walker is scoring 8.3 points per game against league foes.