Date: Thursday, February 7, 2013 Time: 7:30 p.m (ET) Location: Tuscaloosa, Ala. Arena: Foster Auditorium (3,800) Radio: WISW 1320 AM (Brad Muller); GamecocksOnline.com Live Stats:GamecocksOnline.com Alabama Series: SC leads 16-15; In Tuscaloosa: ALA leads 8-6; In Columbia: SC leads 9-5; Neutral Site: ALA leads 2-1
While assistant coach Nikki McCray is on maternity leave following the birth of her son on Feb. 1, director of basketball operations Cynthia Jordan will be the Gamecocks' third assistant coach. There is no definitive timeline for McCray's return to the bench.
South Carolina's No. 15 ranking in last week's Associated Press poll, which matches this week's entry, is the program's highest mark since coming in at No. 15 the week of Feb. 10, 2003.
Through 22 games, the Gamecock defense has allowed just one opponent to score 60 or more points in a game to rank third in the country in scoring defense. South Carolina is allowing just 47.5 points per game, including just 50.3 points per SEC contest. No Gamecock opponents has scored its season average entering the game, and only four have come within 10 points of their season average. Seven have been held 30 or more points below their average, including two SEC opponents on their own home courts.
Freshman guard Khadijah Sessions' confidence has grown exponentially since her 15-point outing at Florida (Jan. 20). The Myrtle Beach, S.C., native averaged 9.0 points over the last five games, including a 19-point effort to lead the team to victory over Auburn (Feb. 3). Sessions has shot 40.0 percent from the field, including 36.4 percent from 3-point range (4-of-11) and 68.0 percent from the free throw line during the stretch, hitting clutch shots from the charity stripe against both Auburn and Florida to help seal the wins.
Senior guard Ieasia Walker is swiping 3.1 steals per conference game this season to lead the SEC in the category.
Senior forward Ashley Bruner is one of 26 Gamecocks all-time to amass 500 career rebounds and is on pace to become just the 18th to record at least 600, needing nine to achieve that plateau.
A South Carolina Win Would...
Give the Gamecocks their second-straight 20-win season and the 12th in school history - fourth since joining the SEC for the 1991-92 season.
Make the Gamecocks 8-2 in SEC play for the first time since the 2001-02 team opened league play with a 9-2 mark.
Match the 2001-02 team's overall 20-3 start to the season. The Gamecocks reached 21 wins before recording their fourth loss that season, finishing 25-7 in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight.
Give head coach Dawn Staley the eighth 20-win season in her 13th season as a head coach.
Keep Staley undefeated against the Crimson Tide (6-0) in her career.
By the Numbers 1 Opponent that has scored 60 or more points against the Gamecocks this season, helping South Carolina to No. 3 in the nation in scoring defense 3 Gamecocks that rank among the SEC's top 20 in rebounding - Aleighsa Welch (8.0, 7th), Ashley Bruner (7.1, 12th) and Tiffany Mitchell (6.2, 17th) 8 Offensive rebounds needed by sophomore forward Aleighsa Welch for 100 on the season, which would be just the ninth time a Gamecock reached the mark since the statistic was first collected in 1987-88 - Welch would be just the fifth individual Gamecock to get to the century mark. 9 Rebounds needed by senior forward Ashley Bruner to become just the 18th Gamecock to amass 600 in her career - Bruner is currently 20th in school history in career rebounds 10 RPI for South Carolina - one of six SEC teams among the top 40 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) - She is one of just three active SEC players with 1,000 career points along with 200 career steals and 200 career assists. 14 Of the last 24 Associated Press polls that have included the Gamecocks, dating back to Jan. 9, 2012, and including this week's appearance at No. 15 (the highest since Feb. 10, 2003) 19> Points by Khadijah Sessions against Auburn (Feb. 3), the highest scoring output by a Gamecock off the bench this season 29.3 Points below their season average that South Carolina held the #5/4 Kentucky Wildcats on Jan. 24 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-No. 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 76.1 Percent of the team's 1,320 points this season scored by the starting lineup
The Alabama Series
South Carolina holds a 16-15 edge over Alabama thanks to a six-game win streak against the Crimson Tide since head coach Dawn Staley took the reins of the program. In fact, the Gamecocks have won nine of the last 10 games and, going back even farther, 13 of the last 16 - beginning in 2000-01.
Alabama does have an 8-6 advantage over South Carolina in Tuscaloosa, but the Gamecocks have won the last two meetings there, most recently a 69-55 victory on Feb. 19, 2012. South Carolina went on to defeat the Crimson Tide 57-38 in the first round of last season's SEC Tournament in Nashville.
South Carolina's last loss to Alabama was a 65-54 outcome on Jan. 10, 2008, in Tuscaloosa.
The Gamecocks are 193-232 (.454) all-time in games on enemy territory, including an 18-27 (.400) mark under head coach Dawn Staley.
Figuring On February
South Carolina is 181-139 (.566) all-time in the month of February, including a 13-16 (.448) record under fifth-year head coach Dawn Staley. The Gamecocks are 103-39 (.725) in home games during the second month of the calendar year, including a 19-16 (.543) mark at Colonial Life Arena. South Carolina is 60-83 (.420) in February road games and 12-9 at neutral sites during the month.
Life in the League
South Carolina is 98-194 (.336) all-time in its 22nd season of SEC regular-season play. The Gamecocks are 63-84 (.429) in SEC games played in Columbia with a 35-110 record (.241) on the road. Under head coach Dawn Staley, the Gamecocks have a 34-37 (.479) SEC record, which includes a 2-12 slate in her first season at the helm. The program's 27 SEC regular-season victories in Staley's first four seasons are the best four-year mark for the program in more than a decade.
Last season's 10 wins matched the 2001-02 team for the best since joining the league for the 1991-92 season. It was just the third time in its 21 seasons in the league that South Carolina posted at least nine conference wins. In fact, the Gamecocks have only won seven or more league games six times in their 21 seasons with three of those coming under Staley.
Overall, Staley boasts a 133-62 (.682) record in league play, including eight seasons leading her Temple teams to a 99-25 (.798) Atlantic 10 mark.
Rendering the RPI
With a 19-3 record, including eight wins away from home, the Gamecocks are 10th in the NCAA RPI released on Feb. 4. South Carolina is one of six SEC schools rated among the top 40 with five others coming inside the top 100.
The Gamecocks' strength of schedule ranks in the top 20 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 against then-No. 5/4 Kentucky (Jan. 24), on the road against No. 10/8 Kentucky and No. 14/16 Texas A&M.
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 19-3 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 scoring average from 8.5 in non-conference play to 11.1 in SEC action. She ranks among the 30 top scorers in league games. Walker turned up the scoring while still contributing 2.7 assists and an SEC-best 3.1 steals per game in league play.
In evidence that she has spent her career as an all-around contributor, Walker 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. In South Carolina history, just 11 Gamecocks have reached all three plateaus. Only six of those have more career rebounds than Walker's 432, including two who played prior to the Gamecocks joining the SEC.
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 20th on the total rebounding list with 591, she needs nine more rebounds to 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 229, she needs two more to tie Rita Johnson (1977-81) in fourth place. Shannon Johnson's third-place spot (260) is 31 steals away.