Opponent: Ole Miss (10-11, 1-6 SEC) Date: Thursday, January 30, 2014, 7 p.m. Site: Columbia, S.C. Colonial Life Arena (18,000) Tickets: $7 adult, $4 youth (17 and under) Promotions: Long-Sleeve T-Shirts, pizza and drink for first 500 Students TV: None Radio: WISW 1320 AM, WNKT 107.5 FM (in progress) (Brad Muller) Live Video:GamecocksOnline.com Live Stats:GamecocksOnline.com Series History: OM leads 17-16
South Carolina Notables
South Carolina is 6-1 in SEC play for the first time in school history. The Gamecocks' best ever start in conference play was an 8-0 mark in the Metro in 1987-88.
SEC offenses are clearly guard dominated this season with just eight of the league's top-25 scorers playing forward or center. The Gamecocks have the league's most productive frontcourt as the only team with multiple non-guard entries on the list in junior forward Aleighsa Welch (13.7 ppg, 15th) and freshman center Alaina Coates (11.7 ppg, 25th).
Sophomore guard Tiffany Mitchell has proven her ability to deliver in the clutch this season. She scored five points in the final 20 seconds of regulation at Texas A&M (Jan. 16) to send the game into overtime, and she netted four points in 18 seconds with the Gamecocks tied at Vanderbilt (Jan. 26) with under a minute left to help deliver the win. In South Carolina's seven games decided by fewer than 10 points, Mitchell averages 5.6 points in the last five minutes, shooting 64.7 percent (11-of-17) from the field and 76.5 percent (13-of-17) from the free throw line.
A South Carolina Win Would...
Be the Gamecocks' 12th at Colonial Life Arena this season, matching the home win total of each of the last two seasons.
Make the Gamecocks 7-1 in conference play for the fourth time in school history (other three in Metro) - second-best eight-game conference record in school history (8-0 in 1987-88).
By the Numbers
2 Teams that rank among the nation's top five in both field goal percentage and field goal percentage defense - South Carolina (5th/5th) and Connecticut (3rd/1st) 3 Double-doubles needed by center Alaina Coates to tie the Gamecock freshman record for double-doubles in a season (9 by Kelsey Bone in 2008-09) 4 Blocks needed by junior center Elem Ibiam to move into the program's top 10 in career blocked shots, sharing ninth place with Melanie Johnson (2004-07) and Teresa Geter (2000-02) with 99. Ibiam is currently tied for seventh in single-season blocks at 48. 8 Games this season in which sophomore guard Tiffany Mitchell has had a hand in at least one-third of the offense (points plus assists) - highlighted by helping to deliver 52.2 percent of the Gamecocks' 69 points against Winthrop (Dec. 20) - during which the Gamecocks are 7-1 11 Games this season in which South Carolina has scored at least 50.0 percent of its points in the paint, including four of at least 60.0 percent of scoring coming from the paint (Chas. Sthrn., 70.7%; at USC, 60.0%; UK, 61.8%; at Vandy, 75.4%) 12 Opponents who have been held to 55 or fewer points by the Gamecocks this season, helping the Gamecocks rank second in the nation in scoring defense 37 Weeks in which the Gamecocks have ranked 10th or higher in the Associated Press poll all-time, including six this season. South Carolina's best ever ranking was No. 2, which it held for three weeks in Dec. 1981. 42 Blocked shots by center Alaina Coates this season, trying the program's freshman record originally set by Lakesha Tolliver in 2004-05. With one more block, Coates will tie for 10th on the overall single-season list, matching Michelle Murray's 43 in 1991-93.
Ole Miss Series Notes
The Rebels lead the series 17-16, but South Carolina has won the last four meetings and seven of the last nine. The Gamecocks are 9-5 against Ole Miss in Columbia.
South Carolina posted a 62-47 win in Oxford last season (Feb. 17) behind four Gamecocks in double-figure points and a defensive effort that allowed just 21.4 percent shooting in the first half. Then-freshman Tiffany Mitchell poured in 15 points, which was then her career high in an SEC contest, while Aleighsa Welch and Khadijah Sessions each added 11 points.
The Rebels' last win in the series was a 64-63 decision in the opening round of the 2010 SEC Tournament in Georgia. Ole Miss last defeated the Gamecocks in Columbia on Feb. 8, 2009, by a 66-65 score.
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 has a group that is designed for offensive efficiency. The Gamecocks are scoring more (73.9 ppg) and more efficiently (.486 FG %age - 1st in SEC, 5th 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 47.7 percent of the team's points - and on ball movement creating the best shots as 59.7 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 52.2 points per game. Only eight of 20 opponents this season have scored 55 or more points against South Carolina.
Talking Top 10
South Carolina is ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press poll this week, the program's highest ranking since coming in at the same spot on Jan. 21, 2002. The Gamecocks' sixth appearance in the top 10 this season matches the 2001-02 team's six entries among the nation's 10 best teams. The 1981-82 Gamecocks hold the school record for weeks in the AP top 10 with nine weeks at the start of their season.
Home Sweet Home
With comprehensive records beginning in the 1976-77 season (the third for women's basketball at South Carolina), the Gamecocks are 373-155 (.706) all-time in games played at home, including a 128-58 mark (.688) in Colonial Life Arena. In the sixth season with head coach Dawn Staley at the helm, South Carolina is 63-25 (.716) at home, including one game at Carolina Coliseum in the 2012-13 season. The Gamecocks have won 49 of their last 60 games played in Colonial Life Arena.
Life in the League
South Carolina is 108-198 (.353) all-time in its 23rd season of SEC regular-season play. The Gamecocks are 68-85 (.444) in SEC games played in Columbia with a 40-113 record (.261) on the road. Under head coach Dawn Staley, the Gamecocks have a 44-41 (.518) SEC record, which includes a 2-12 slate in her first season at the helm. The 36 SEC regular-season victories in the previous four seasons are the best four-year mark for the program.
Sophomore guard Tiffany Mitchell has both honed and diversified her game this season, making her one of the most productive players in the SEC. The Charlotte, N.C., native is one of three SEC competitors to rank among the league's top 15 in scoring, field goal percentage, assists and steals - and she is the youngest of the trio.
Mitchell is 10th at 15.3 points per game, third with a .351 field goal percentage, 15th at 3.5 assists per game and third with 2.5 steals per game. Ole Miss' Valencia McFarland and Florida's Jaterra Bonds, both seniors, join Mitchell in the top 15 of each category.
In conference play, Mitchell's talents expand to include rebounding, while she sits just outside the top 15 in assists. She becomes one of just two SEC players to rank in the top 20 of both scoring and rebounding and top 15 in both field goal percentage and steals. Ole Miss junior forward Tia Faleru is the other.