Date: Thursday, January 24, 2013 Time: 7 p.m. Location: Columbia, S.C. Arena: Colonial Life Arena Tickets: $7 adult, $4 youth (17 & under) TV: SportSouth (Dave Baker, play-by-play; Stephanie Ready, analyst); ESPN3 outside SEC areas only (Outside the U.S.? Click here to watch Radio: WISW 1320 AM (Brad Muller); GamecocksOnline.com Live Stats:GamecocksOnline.com Kentucky Series: UK leads 30-18; In Columbia: SC leads 13-9; In Lexington: UK leads 5-18; Neutral Site: UK leads 3-0
The Fast Break
South Carolina will take part in the SEC's "We Back Pat" initiative tonight with the team wearing special shooting shirts and videos and messages running throughout the game in support of The Pat Summitt Foundation Fund and its fight against Alzheimer's disease.
South Carolina has turned the ball over just 10 times in each of its last two games, an effort that has helped the Gamecocks to rank 20th in the nation with just 14.0 turnovers per game.
Through 19 games this season, the Gamecock defense has allowed just one opponent to score 60 or more points in a game this season to rank third in the country in scoring defense. South Carolina is allowing just 47.6 points per game, including just 52.0 points per SEC contest.
Senior guard Ieasia Walker scored her 1,000th career point as part of her 24-point outing against LSU (Jan. 17). She is the 28th member of that club and just the 12th to also compile at least 200 career steals. She is one of just three active SC players to have 1,000 career points in combination with 200 career steals and 200 career assists.
Sophomore forward Aleighsa Welch and senior guard Ieasia Walker have provided the ideal inside-outside threat combination over the last five games, during which South Carolina is 4-1. The pair of combined to score 45.7 percent of the team's 282 points during the stretch, averaging 14.0 and 11.8 points, respectively. Both rank among the SEC's top 30 scorers in league games - Welch 20th at 12.7 ppg and Walker 27th with 11.5 ppg.
A South Carolina Win Would...
Make the Gamecocks 5-2 in SEC play for the first time since the 2001-02 team opened league play with the same seven-game record.
Be the Gamecocks' first over a nationally ranked team this season.
Be the program's first over a top-five team since a 70-66 win over then-No. 5 Vanderbilt on Jan. 14, 1998, in Columbia.
By the Numbers
1 Opponents that has scored 60 or more points against the Gamecocks this season, helping South Carolina to No. 3 in the nation in scoring defense 2 Times this season that Tiffany Mitchell has been named SEC Freshman of the Week, including her selection on Monday for her contributions to last week's wins over LSU and Florida 3 Gamecocks that rank among the SEC's top 15 in rebounding - Aleighsa Welch (8.5, 5th), Ashley Bruner (7.4, 10th) and Tiffany Mitchell (6.4, 14th) 3.0 Points per game more scored by senior guard Ieasia Walker in SEC games this season than in non-conference play 6 SEC teams with an RPI in the top 30, including South Carolina at 17 12 Gamecocks all-time who have amassed 1,000 career points and 200 career steals after senior guard Ieasia Walker joined the club with her 24-point outing against LSU (Jan. 17) 13 Rebounds needed by senior forward Ashley Bruner to move into the program's all-time top 20 in career boards 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 15 Points by Khadijah Sessions at Florida (Jan. 20), the highest scoring output by a Gamecock off the bench this season 25 Strength of schedule ranking for the Gamecocks, the third-highest in the SEC 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 42 Points scored by then-# 13/12 Georgia (Jan. 13), the fewest the Gamecocks have ever allowed in a losing effort 59 Rebounds by the Gamecocks at Florida (Jan. 20), the most in the Dawn Staley era 76.6 Percent of the team's 1,163 points this season scored by the starting lineup 84 Offensive rebounds by Aleighsa Welch this season, more than half of her total of 161, to lead the SEC in offensive rebounding (4.4 per game)
The Kentucky Series
The Wildcats lead the series 30-18, although the Gamecocks are 13-9 against Kentucky in Columbia. The teams have split the last four games played in Colonial Life Arena with the last three being decided by eight or fewer points.
Since Dawn Staley was named head coach prior to the 2008-09 season, South Carolina has won every third game against the Wildcats, meaning the Gamecocks are due to win tonight after Kentucky swept last season's home-and-home series. The Wildcats scored a 66-58 victory in Columbia on Jan. 15, 2012, and followed it by just eking out a 53-50 win in Lexington on Feb. 23.
The Gamecocks' last win in the series was a 66-61 decision over the then-No. 15/18 Kentucky on Feb. 10, 2011. Ieasia Walker tied for game-high honors with 17 points in that game, including 7-of-10 from the free throw line, while swiping four steals.
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 16-3 overall and 4-2 in SEC action, 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 5.3 or more 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 15 rebounders. Defensively, the Gamecocks are third in the nation in scoring defense, yielding just 476 points per game. South Carolina has held 14 of its 19 opponents this season under 50 points and limited seven of the 19 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.
Facing the First Five
In its 39th season of women's basketball, South Carolina has played a team ranked in the Associated Press top five 66 times, defeating six of them, including five in Columbia. The last top-five team to fall to the Gamecocks was then-No. 5 Vanderbilt by a score of 70-66 on Jan. 14, 1998, in Columbia. South Carolina twice upset a third-ranked Auburn team, the highest-ranked opponent defeated in program history. The first time was an 83-76 decision in Columbia on Dec. 29, 1990, the year before the Gamecocks joined the SEC. The more recent was a 59-47 victory over the Tigers on Feb. 27, 1993, also at home.
Tonight's game is the Gamecocks' second this season against a top-five team, following a Dec. 19 loss to then-No. 1 Stanford. South Carolina faced four top-five teams in 2010-11, the most since the 1989-90 squad took on five, including two on consecutive days at the Super Shootout on Hilton Head Island, S.C.
Home Sweet Home
South Carolina is in its 11th season at Colonial Life Arena and enjoys a 113-57 (.665) record in that time. Overall, the Gamecocks are 358-154 (.699) all-time in home games. Head coach Dawn Staley has amassed a 48-24 (.667) home record in her fifth season at the helm.
South Carolina is 181-179 (.503) all-time in the month of January, including a 20-21 (.488) record under fifth-year head coach Dawn Staley. The Gamecocks are 106-75 (.586) in home games during the first month of the calendar year, including a 30-55 (.352) mark at Colonial Life Arena. South Carolina is 62-96 (.392) in January road games and 4-0 at neutral sites during the month.
Rendering the RPI
With a 16-3 record, including seven wins away from home, the Gamecocks are 17th in the NCAA RPI released this week. South Carolina is one of seven SEC schools rated among the top 50 with four others coming inside the top 80.
The Gamecocks' strength of schedule ranks in the top 25 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. 5/4 Kentucky (Jan. 24/Feb. 14) and No. 16/18 Texas A&M.
South Carolina is ranked 20th in the country in turnovers, committing just 14.0 per game. The Gamecocks have committed 10 or fewer turnovers seven times this season, including a pair of seven-turnover games that rank among the top five in the Dawn Staley era. South Carolina has turned it over more than 15 times in a game just five times, while the defense has forced more than 15 turnovers 12 times. The Gamecocks' 14.0 turnovers per game is the lowest average by the program since the 1983-84 team set the school record of 8.2.
Walkin' on Sunshine
Senior guard Ieasia Walker has shown tremendous leadership in guiding this season's team that includes four newcomers among its nine active players to a 16-3 record. Walker showed patience through the non-conference season, stepping out of the spotlight to allow her younger teammates to find their way on offense while still providing dominant defense borne of quick hands and lightning fast reflexes.
In SEC play, however, Walker as re-asserted herself offensively raising her overall scoring average by three points point over the last six games. She has an 11.5 scoring average in league play, which ranks among the 30 best in the SEC. Walker turned up the scoring while still contributing 2.0 assists and 2.7 steals per game in league play. She joins Kentucky's A'dia Mathies and Georgia's Jasmine James as the only active SEC players to have amassed at least 1,000 points in combination with 200 career assists and 200 career steals.
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 22nd on the total rebounding list with 575, she can move into the top 20 with 13 more boards, which would tie her for the 20th spot with Ilona Burgrova (2005-08). With 25 more rebounds this season, Bruner will join just 17 other Gamecocks to reach 600 career boards.
Walker joined the 1,000-point club 18 points into her 24-point performance against LSU (Jan. 17) at Carolina Coliseum. She is just the 28th Gamecock to reach the plateau and is one of just 12 in the group to pair the milestone with at least 200 career steals. Walker hit that mark with five swipes against Western Carolina (Dec. 29). She moved into the program's top 10 in that category on the same night she scored her 1,000th point, swiping five steals from the Lady Tigers to get to 216 and climb into sixth place in school history. Currently at 217, she needs 10 more to tie Cristina Ciocan (2000-04) in fifth place.