South Carolina makes a one-game return to Carolina Coliseum tonight due to a scheduling conflict between Colonial Life Arena and the SEC. It is the first official college basketball game played at the facility since the men's team faced Ball State in the NIT on March 21, 2002.
The Gamecock defense has held 13 of its 17 opponents to less than 50 points, including each of the last three SEC foes, to rank third in the country in scoring defense, allowing just 47.1 points per game. South Carolina has allowed just more than 60 points just once this season.
Senior guard Sancheon White has thrived since the beginning of SEC play, averaging 6.3 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per outing. In non-conference action, she posted 5.8 points and 3.7 boards per game. She has swiped three steals in each of the last three SEC outings.
Sophomore forward Aleighsa Welch is seventh in the SEC in rebounding (8.4 rpg) and leads the league on the offensive glass (4.3). She is fifth in the conference with six double-doubles, the first of her career.
Senior guard Ieasia Walker swiped five steals against Western Carolina (Dec. 29) to become just the 13th Gamecock to amass at least 200 in her career. The three-year starter is also on track to reach the 1,000-point plateau this season, needing just 18 points to reach the mark.
Senior forward Ashley Bruner is one of 26 Gamecocks to amass 500 career rebounds and has a chance to become just the 18th to record at least 600, needing 46 to achieve that plateau.
A South Carolina Win Would...
Be the Gamecocks' second straight home victory over LSU.
Make the Gamecocks 3-2 in SEC play for the third time in five seasons under head coach Dawn Staley.
By the Numbers
2 Gamecocks averaging double-figure points this season - Aleighsa Welch (12.6) and Tiffany Mitchell (10.5) 3 Gamecocks that rank among the SEC's top 20 in rebounding - Aleighsa Welch (8.4, 7th), Ashley Bruner (7.1, 11th) and Tiffany Mitchell (6.1, 19th) 6 Statistical categories in which the Gamecocks rank among the nation's top 30 - scoring defense (47.1 ppg, 3rd), rebound margin (+11.6, 6th), fewest fouls per game (13.2, 16th), field goal percentage defense (.338, 18th), won-lost percentage (.824, 26th) and fewest turnovers per game (14.5, 30th) 7 SEC teams with an RPI in the top 40, including South Carolina at 24 13 Opponents South Carolina has held under 60 points in the team's 17 games this season, including its last three SEC opponents 14 Weeks out of the last 21 possible that the Gamecocks have been ranked in at least one of the two major top 25 polls 14 Deficit at halftime for the Gamecocks against Drexel before coming back to win in overtime, the largest deficit South Carolina has overcome since rallying from 18 points down with 8:15 to play in the first half against LSU on Jan. 6, 2011 and the largest second-half deficit overcome by the Gamecocks in the Dawn Staley era 18 Points needed by senior guard Ieasia Walker to reach 1,000 in her career 32 Free throws made by the Gamecocks at Mississippi State (Jan. 6), the most in the Dawn Staley era, the fourth-most in school history and the most ever in a road game 34 Rebounds needed by senior forward Ashley Bruner to move into the program's top 20 in career rebounds. She is already one of just 26 Gamecocks to reach the 500-rebound plateau. 42 Points scored by then-# 13/12 Georgia (Jan. 13), the fewest the Gamecocks have ever allowed in a losing effort 73 Offensive rebounds by Aleighsa Welch this season, more than half of her total of 142, to lead the SEC in offensive rebounding (4.3 per game) 75.8 Percent of the team's 1,045 points this season scored by the starting lineup
The LSU Series
The Lady Tigers are 22-4 against the Gamecocks all-time, including a 10-2 mark in Columbia. LSU has won the last two meetings, both in Baton Rouge - a 58-48 decision on Jan. 12, 2012, and a 54-51 overtime affair on Feb. 24, 2011.
South Carolina's last win over LSU came on Jan. 6, 2011, behind a strong second-half effort that turned a seven-point halftime deficit into a 63-61 victory at Colonial Life Arena. Ashley Bruner turned six offensive rebounds into 11 points in that game, while Ieasia Walker netted 10 points to go with three assists and two steals.
The two combined to make the game-winning play in the final seconds of that game. With the game tied and 22 seconds to play, LSU had the ball, which Walker hawked to force a pass. Bruner nabbed the steal and fed Walker in transition. Fouled with two seconds to play, Walker sank both free throws to deliver the win.
Scouting the Lady Tigers
LSU brings an 11-6 overall record and a 2-2 SEC slate into Columbia tonight as the Lady Tigers snapped a two-game skid with a 62-42 win over Mississippi State on Sunday. Four Lady Tigers average double-figure points for the SEC's fourth highest scoring team.
Junior forward Theresa Plaisance hits 17.8 points per game to rank second in the league, while her 7.9 rebounds per game are good for eighth in the SEC. Freshman guard Danielle Ballard is ninth in the league behind 14.2 points per game in her first college season, is second on the team in rebounding (5.9 rpg) and slots in at third on the team with 2.7 assists per game. Senior guard Adrienne Webb's 13.6 points per game are 12th in the SEC, and senior guard Bianca Lutley rounds out the double-digit quartet with 10.5 points per game.
As a team, LSU is fourth in the SEC in field goal percentage, hitting 44.4 percent of its shots, including 41.3 percent in SEC play. Defensively, the Lady Tigers block 5.3 shots per game, tied for second most in the league.
Gamecocks' Five-Second Count
With a complementary blend of youth and experience, South Carolina opened a season 10-0 for the first time since the 1981-82 team also won its first 10 contests. The Gamecocks, now 14-3, have shown they have both inside and outside offensive options and are dominant on the glass this season while the defense has dropped off very little from last season's NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 effort. Two Gamecocks average double-figure points with three others netting 5.9 or more points per game. South Carolina ranks sixth in the nation with a +11.6 rebounding margin and has three players ranked among the SEC's top 20 rebounders. Defensively, the Gamecocks are third in the nation in scoring defense, yielding just 47.1 points per game. South Carolina has held 13 of its 17 opponents this season under 50 points and limited six of the 17 to under 30 percent field goal shooting, including Hampton (Nov. 22), which hit just 19.3 percent (11-57) from the field for the second-lowest opponent field goal percentage of the Staley era, and Vanderbilt (Jan. 10), which shot just 26.5 percent after coming into the game with the SEC's second-highest field goal accuracy at 45.2.
A scheduling conflict between the SEC and Colonial Life Arena brought tonight's game to Carolina Coliseum, which the Gamecocks called home until the 2002-03 season. While program records do not indicate the site (Home/Away/Neutral) of most games in the first two seasons of play, the information available indicates a 236-96 record for the Gamecocks over 28 seasons at Carolina Coliseum. The last women's game at the facility was a 75-56 win by the #13 Gamecocks over #19 Cincinnati in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on March 18, 2002.
Rendering the RPI
With a 14-3 record, including six wins away from home, the Gamecocks are 24th in the NCAA RPI released this week. South Carolina is one of seven SEC schools rated among the top 40 with four others coming inside the top 85.
The Gamecocks' strength of schedule ranks in the top 30 and will continue to build over the course of the season. The Gamecocks are slated to play five teams currently ranked in the top 25 - then-No. 1/1 Stanford (Dec. 19), then-No. 12/13 Tennessee, at then-No. 13/12 Georgia (Jan. 13), home and away against No. 5/5 Kentucky (Jan. 24/Feb. 14) and No. 20/20 Texas A&M.
Five for Fighting
South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley has used the same starting lineup in every game this season, and the quintet led the way to the program's best non-conference record since 2001-02. Starters - Ieasia Walker, Sancheon White, Tiffany Mitchell, Ashley Bruner and Aleighsa Welch - account for 75.8 percent of the offense and 69.3 percent of rebounds while playing 71.0 percent of the minutes available. Each of the five averages at least 5.9 points, more than any Gamecock off the bench. Still, the four reserves available have out-scored their counterparts on the opposite bench 10 times this season, during which the Gamecocks are 9-1.
Looking at South Carolina's roster of seven guards and four forwards/centers, the casual observer might think that rebounding would not be the Gamecocks' bailiwick, but South Carolina has out-rebounded all but one of its 15 opponents this season (Stanford), including four by more 20 or more and six other by at least 10. The team effort has the Gamecocks ranked sixth in the nation in rebound margin at +11.6.
While rebounding is a team focus, this season has seen a surge in individual performances. In 2011-12, a Gamecock posted double-figure rebounds just seven times over 35 games. Through 17 games this season, South Carolina has amassed 15 double-digit rebound efforts, including seven from sophomore forward Aleighsa Welch, who is third in the SEC led in the category. Three Gamecocks rank among the SEC's top 20 rebounders - Aleighsa Welch (7th), Ashley Bruner (11th) an Tiffany Mitchell (19th).
Posts Up - Spurs Up
For the first time in the Dawn Staley era, two of the team's top three scorers are post players. Forwards Aleighsa Welch and Ashley Bruner have been an integral part in the team's 14-3 start this season, averaging 12.6 and 8.9 points, respectively. Welch is shooting a team-best 67.2 percent from the field on the season and leads the SEC in field goal percentage in league games at 64.7.
The duo are among the league's top 15 rebounders with Welch ranking seventh at 8.4 per game and Bruner coming in 11th at 7.1. Both are especially proficient on the offensive glass, ranking first and eighth, respectively, in the league. More than half of Welch's 142 total rebounds have come on the offensive end (73), while 44.2 percent of Bruner's 120 have come on a Gamecock miss.
Senior Sancheon White has answered the challenge of SEC competition this season, crediting the experience she gained last year when she played just 14.8 minutes per conference contest, adding 3.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per outing. A lightning-quick, aggressive defender, White has put her mark the Gamecocks' SEC foes on both ends of the floor so far this season. She second on the team and is 17th in the league with 6.3 rebounds per SEC game while also adding 6.3 points per contest after closing out non-conference action with a 5.8 average. Defensively, White has reached her prime, swiping three steals in each of the last three games (2.3 steals per SEC contest to rank seventh in the league) and swatting away three shots against Vanderbilt (Jan. 10).
Movin' On Up
South Carolina seniors Ashley Bruner and Ieasia Walker have made the most of their time in the Garnet and Black, posting and heading toward significant milestones while moving up the all-time leaderboards in several categories.
Bruner made the first move by becoming just the 26th Gamecock to pull down at least 500 career rebounds, hitting the mark as part of her seven-rebound outing at Seton Hall (Dec. 2). Currently 25th on the total rebounding list with 554, she can move into the top 20 with 34 more boards, which would tie her for the 20th spot with Ilona Burgrova (2005-08). With 46 more rebounds this season, Bruner will join just 17 other Gamecocks to reach 600 career boards.
Walker became just the 13th Gamecock to amass at least 200 career steals with her five against Western Carolina (Dec. 29). Currently with 211 steals, she needs just one more to join Shaunzinksi Gortman (1999-2002) and Sharon Rivers (1980-83) in the all-time top 10. With 982 career points, Walker is on track to join the Gamecocks' 1,000-point club as the 28th member, only 11 of whom have also posted at least 200 steals.