Date: Thursday, February 9, 2012 Time: 8 p.m. (ET) Location: Fayetteville, Ark. Arena: Bud Walton Arena (19,200) TV: None Radio: WISW 1320 AM (Brad Muller and Marcy Girton); GamecocksOnline.com Live Stats:ArkansasRazorbacks.com Arkansas Series: ARK leads 16-8; In Fayetteville: ARK leads 9-2; In Columbia: SC leads 6-5; At Neutral Site: ARK leads 2-0
South Carolina Notables
South Carolina has won seven SEC games for just the seventh time in its 21 years in the league. Three of those seven times have been under head coach Dawn Staley. The most SEC games the Gamecocks have ever won is 10 in 2001-02.
South Carolina's defense, rated second in the nation in points allowed (48.1), has held an opponent to 48 or fewer points 11 times this season, including four SEC foes - Alabama (42), Florida (44), Ole Miss (43) and Mississippi State (43). Only three teams have reached the 60-point plateau on the Gamecocks this season.
While the Gamecocks are last in the SEC in 3-point field goal percentage overall, the recent boon from beyond the arc during the current four-game win streak has propelled them into fifth place in league games. South Carolina enetered the game at Vanderbilt (Jan. 22) hitting just 24.1 percent from long range (74-307). Over the last four games, the team is 29-of-82 for 35.4 percent accuracy, highlighted by the combined 26-of-54 accuracy (.481) of senior guards Markeshia Grant (16-of-36) and La'Keisha Sutton (10-of-18).
While turning the high-scoring duties over to her hot-shooting backcourt mates the last four games, junior Ieasia Walker has averaged 5.5 assists and 4.8 rebounds over the stretch. That rebound average is second-best on the team, and her career-high seven assists against Ole Miss moved her into the team lead in assists both overall (3.1) and per SEC outing (3.6). Additionally, Walker has not committed a turnover in the last three games, while handing out at least six assists in each contest and is now fourth in the league with a 1.4 assist-to-turnover ratio in conference games.
A South Carolina Win Would...
Be the Gamecocks' fifth straight in conference play, making it the longest SEC win streak in program history. South Carolina has won four straight SEC games four times in its 21 seasons in the league, including the current streak.
Give the Gamecocks 19 wins for the first time since the 2002-03 team finished 23-8 with two of those wins coming in postseason play.
Be the Gamecocks' eighth SEC win of the season, making it the second straight season head coach Staley's teams have hit that mark after the program had won eight or more league games just twice in the 17 seasons prior to her arrival.
Be the Gamecocks' eighth road win of the season, the program's most since the 1989-90 team turned in eight road victories (both numbers exclude neutral site games). The school record for road wins is 11 set by the 1981-82 and 1979-80 teams.
Be the Gamecocks' second straight over Arkansas and their fifth in the last seven meetings with the Razorbacks.
By the Numbers
2 Wins this season that senior guard La'Keisha Sutton has sealed with a pair of free throws - at Florida (Jan. 8) and at Tennessee (Feb. 2)
3 Wins in the Gamecocks' four SEC games decided by five or fewer points - at Florida (Jan. 8), at Vanderbilt (Jan. 22) and at Tennessee (Feb. 2)
4 Categories in which South Carolina ranks among the SEC's top two in league games - scoring defense (1st), 3-point field goal defense (1st), rebounding defense (1st), rebounding margin (2nd)
5 Gamecocks who average at least 4.0 rebounds per SEC game - Aleighsa Welch (6.6), Ieasia Walker (4.7), Charenee Stephens (4.5) Ashley Bruner (4.0) and Sancheon White (4.0)
6 Games this season that junior guard Ieasia Walker has handed out five or more assists, including each of the last three, during which the Gamecocks are 5-1
7 Starts needed by La'Keisha Sutton to become just the 11th player in school history to start 100 career games
10 Games in which freshman forward Aleighsa Welch has led the team in rebounding, all of which were Gamecock victories
13 Games in which South Carolina has allowed under 20.0 percent shooting from 3-point range, including five games of not allowing a single made 3-pointer
17 Games this season in which the Gamecock defense has allowed no more than 55 points, during which South Carolina is 14-3
19 Assists handed out by junior guard Ieasia Walker over the last three games, during which she has not committed a single turnover
29 Total points by which South Carolina has been outscored in its five losses this season, making its average margin of defeat 5.8 points compared to a 18.9-point average margin of victory
Last Time Out
South Carolina captured its first win over Tennessee in Knoxville with a 64-60 victory last Thursday night. The Gamecocks' trio of starting guards scored all 29 first-half points and sealed the victory in the waning moments as well. Senior Markeshia Grant buried a career-high seven 3s en route to 27 points, while La'Keisha Sutton and Ieasia Walker both finished in double figures as well. The Gamecocks sustained a late run from the Lady Vols to score 14 of the game's final 17 points, turning a seven-point deficit at the five-minute mark into the four-point victory.
Arkansas Series Notes
The Razorbacks lead the series 16-8, but the Gamecocks have won four of the last six meetings, including last season's overtime affair in Fayetteville. The last three games have been decided by a combined 10 points with the Razorbacks coming out on top in the first two.
In the most recent meeting on Feb. 6, 2011, both teams felt in control of the game at different points of regulation, but it was the Gamecocks that put the final closure on the outing. Valerie Nainima scored 11 of her 14 points in the second period, and Ieasia Walker and La'Keisha Sutton hit key free throws to send the game to overtime and seal the win.
The victory stopped a two-game streak by the Razorbacks, who won the most recent matchup at Colonial Life Arena 72-68 on Feb. 14, 2010.
Sutton is the highest-scoring player on the Gamecock roster against Arkansas, averaging 14.7 points over her three games with the Razorbacks. She has also handed out 5.0 assists per game over the stretch, while senior Charenee Stephens has reeled in 5.7 boards per matchup with Arkansas in her career.
South Carolina has a 186-233 (.444) all-time record on the road. The Gamecocks' best season on the road was 1979-80 when they went 11-4. Under head coach Dawn Staley, South Carolina is 17-24 in road games. In her 11th season as a head coach, Staley has a 79-70 road record.
The Gamecocks are 7-3 on the road so far this season, making it the season with the most road wins since the 1989-90 squad went 8-2 in enemy territory.
Life in the League
South Carolina is 88-189 all-time in its 21st season SEC regular-season play. The Gamecocks are 57-82 in SEC games played in Columbia with a 31-107 record on the road. The Gamecocks are 22-20 in conference play since head coach Dawn Staley's first season in the league yielded a 2-12 mark. The most SEC wins in the Staley era was last season's eight. Overall, Staley boasts a 123-57 record in league play, including eight seasons leading her Temple teams to a 99-25 Atlantic 10 mark.
Figuring Out February
The Gamecocks are 177-136 (.565) all-time in the month of February, including a 100-38 (.725) record at home. Under head coach Dawn Staley, South Carolina is 9-13 in the second month of the year. The Gamecocks went 1-5 in Staley's first year at the helm (2008-09), were 3-5 in 2009-10 and posted a 4-3 record last season. The Gamecocks are 1-0 so far this February.
Reading the Rankings
For the second time this season, South Carolina is ranked No. 24 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll. It is the first season the Gamecocks have been nationally ranked since 2002-03, when they finished at No. 16.
Gamecock head coach Dawn Staley has led a nationally ranked team before as her Temple squads were in the rankings for a total of 26 weeks during her eight seasons at the helm. She is one of 37 coaches who have coached multiple teams in the national rankings, only 21 of which are currently still coaching at the NCAA Division I level.
Senior guard Markeshia Grant was named USBWA National Player of the Week and SEC Player of the Week after her 27-point performance at then-#8/8 Tennessee on Feb. 2. The Tampa, Fla., native's seven 3-pointers paced the Gamecocks in their first win at Tennessee in program history and their first over the Lady Vols in since January 1980.
The effort was Grant's exclamation point in a current three-game streak that has seen her shoot 16-of-28 (.571) from 3-point range and average 20.7 points. The senior entered the stretch shooting just 20.0 percent from 3-point range in SEC games, but now ranks 10th in the league in that category (.344) and is second in made 3s per conference games (2.1).
Four of the Gamecocks' 10 SEC games this season have been decided by five or fewer points, and South Carolina has won three of those outings thanks to gutty play, especially from seniors, in the final five minutes.
At Florida (Jan. 8), the Gamecocks saw their 10-point lead cut to five with 4:55 left in the game. Strong defense held the margin into the final 30 seconds of the game, but the Gators twice drew within a 3-pointer in the final 30 seconds. The first time they were turned away by Charenee Stephens' offensive rebound and put back with 12 seconds to play. Leading by three with six seconds to go, La'Keisha Sutton hit both ends of a 1-and-1 opportunity to put the game out of reach.
At Vanderbilt (Jan. 22), South Carolina saw the Commodores erase a four-point deficit in the final two minute of regulation to send the game into overtime. Sutton's five points early in the OT period allowed the Gamecocks to reassert themselves and score the five-point win.
At Tennessee, the Gamecocks trailed the Lady Vols for 7:50 of the final 10 minutes, but delivered when it counted most. South Carolina turned a seven-point deficit at the five-minute mark into the program's first win in Knoxville by scoring 14 of the game's final 17 points in every way imagineable - transition 3-pointer from Markeshia Grant, layup from Ashley Bruner, transition layup from Aleighsa Welch, driving layup by Ieasia Walker, and free throws by Walker and the final two by Sutton to make it a two-possession game with 12 seconds to play.