Date: Thursday, February 16, 2012 Time: 7 p.m. Location: Columbia, S.C. Arena: Colonial Life Arena Tickets: $7 adult, $4 youth (17 & under) TV: SportSouth (Dave Baker and Debbie Antonelli); ESPN3 Radio: WISW 1320 AM (Brad Muller and Marcy Girton); GamecocksOnline.com Live Stats:GamecocksOnline.com Georgia Series: GA leads 31-6; In Columbia: GA leads 13-3; In Athens: GA leads 14-2; At Neutral Site: GA leads 4-1
South Carolina Notables
South Carolina has won eight SEC games for the second-straight season. It is just the fourth time in 21 seasons in the league that the Gamecocks have reached that mark. The program won 10 SEC games in 2002 and nine in 2003.
The 3-point shot has gone from weakness to weapon for the Gamecocks in recent weeks. After entering the Vanderbilt game hitting just 24.1 percent from long range, the team has combined for 36.6 percent accuracy in the next six games. The number jumps to 38.9 percent in the five wins during that stretch. In those games, the outside shot accounted for 34.6 percent of the team's points in those games, including a season-high 44.3 percent of the 61 points scored against Ole Miss.
Senior guards Markeshia Grant and La'Keisha Sutton have combined to score 48.8 percent of the team's 60.6 points per game over the last five outings. One or the other has been the team's high scorer in each game, including three 20-point games for Grant.
While turning the high-scoring duties over to her hot-shooting backcourt mates during the last five games, junior Ieasia Walker averaged 5.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds. Her career-high seven assists against Ole Miss moved her into the team lead in assists both overall (3.2) and per SEC outing (3.7). She is currently fourth in the SEC in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4) in league games. Her league assist average ranks fifth.
A South Carolina Win Would...
Give the Gamecocks 20 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' ninth SEC win of the season, which ties the 2002-03 team for the second-most in school history.
Be the Gamecocks' fifth over a nationally ranked opponent, which is the most for the program since the 2001-02 squad won seven.
By the Numbers
1 Ranks of freshman forward Aleighsa Welch in the SEC in field goal percentage this season (.608)
3 Wins this season that senior guard La'Keisha Sutton has sealed at the free throw line - at Florida (Jan. 8), at Tennessee (Feb. 2) and Florida (Feb. 12)
4 Wins in the Gamecocks' five SEC games decided by five or fewer points - at Florida (Jan. 8), at Vanderbilt (Jan. 22), at Tennessee (Feb. 2) and Florida (Feb. 12)
4.5 Assist-to-turnover ratio for junior guard Ieasia Walker over the last five games - 27 assists, six turnovers - including a stretch of three games without a turnover
5 Games of scoring 20 or more points for senior guard Markeshia Grant this season, the first of her career
6 Gamecocks that shot at least 40.0 percent from the field over the last five games - Aleighsa Welch (66.7), Markeshia Grant (51.5), Charenee Stephens (47.1), La'Keisha Sutton (42.9) and Elem Ibiam (40.0)
7 Games this season that junior guard Ieasia Walker has handed out five or more assists, including four of the last five, during which the Gamecocks are 6-1
12 Games in which freshman forward Aleighsa Welch has led the team in rebounding, 11 of which were victories
9 Times in history that a Gamecock has finished the season averaging at least 3.7 assists in SEC games, which is the current average of junior guard Ieasia Walker
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 held its opponent to no more than 55 points, during which South Carolina is 14-3
29 Total points by which South Carolina was outscored in its five losses this season prior to falling at Arkansas (Feb. 9) by 21 points
61.5 Percent shooting from 3-point range by the Gamecocks against Florida (Feb. 12), their highest of the season
74.9 Percent of team's 60.6 points per game over the last five outings that have been scored or assisted by one of the three starting guards - Markeshia Grant, La'Keisha Sutton and Ieasia Walker
Last Time Out
The Gamecocks completed their first two-game season sweep of Florida with 62-58 win Sunday evening in a near carbon copy of the first matchup between the teams this season in Gainesville. South Carolina built a 10-point lead at halftime behind combined 7-of-9 3-point shooting from Markeshia Grant and Tina Roy. The Gators rallied back to tie the game 54-54 with three minutes left, but Grant put the Gamecocks on top for good with a 3-pointer in the final three minutes. La'Keisha Sutton's driving score on a clear-out play in the final two minutes made it a 3-point game, and the defense held up until she sealed it with a free throw in the final second of the contest.
Georgia Series Notes
The Lady Bulldogs lead the series 31-6 after Georgia won two of the three meetings last season. Each team won on its home court, but the Lady Bulldogs captured the SEC Tournament second-round matchup in Nashville. Georgia opened the series with a 61-51 win in Athens on Jan. 2, but the Gamecocks came back just over three weeks later to upend the then-No. 20 Lady Bulldogs 57-48 in Colonial Life Arena. After earning a first-round bye, the much fresher Lady Bulldogs ended the Gamecocks' SEC Tournament run with a 66-34 victory on March 4.
Georgia's last win at Colonial Life Arena was a 65-49 decision on Feb. 25, 2010.
Home Sweet Home
South Carolina has won 69.7 percent of its home games since the 1976-77 season (records did not include the site of games for the first two seasons of women's basketball). That 348-151 mark includes a 104-54 mark in Colonial Life Arena.
The Gamecocks turned in their most productive home season in 2001-02, winning 17 of their 18 contests in their final season playing at Carolina Coliseum. The team's best home record at Colonial Life Arena came in 2006-07 when South Carolina went 15-5. Last season, South Carolina was 14-5 at home, the fourth-most home wins in school history. So far this season, the Gamecocks are 11-2 at Colonial Life Arena, including a 5-1 mark in SEC action.
Life in the League
South Carolina is 89-190 all-time in its 21st season SEC regular-season play. The Gamecocks are 58-82 in SEC games played in Columbia with a 31-108 record on the road. The Gamecocks are 23-21 in conference play since head coach Dawn Staley's first season in the league yielded a 2-12 mark.
This season's eight SEC wins matches last year's total as the most in the Dawn Staley era. 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 123-58 record in league play, including eight seasons leading her Temple teams to a 99-25 Atlantic 10 mark.
Figuring Out February
The Gamecocks are 178-137 (.565) all-time in the month of February, including a 101-38 (.725) record at home. Under head coach Dawn Staley, South Carolina is 10-14 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 2-1 so far this February.
Reading the Rankings
South Carolina is ranked No. 25 in this week's Associated Press Top 25 Poll, making it the third week the Gamecocks have appeared in the poll (Jan. 9, Feb. 6, Feb. 13). This 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.
Rating the Ranked
South Carolina is 54-190 against nationally ranked teams in its 38th season of women's basketball. The Gamecocks have collected 29 of those 52 wins in Columbia, including 11 in Colonial Life Arena.
In its basketball history, South Carolina's highest-ranked victim was a No. 3-ranked foe, and there are two of those victories, both over Auburn. The first came by a 83-76 score at home on Dec. 29, 1990. The second was a 59-47 decision over the Tigers on Feb. 27, 1993 in the final home game of the season.
In the last three seasons South Carolina has defeated a nationally ranked team nine times in 26 outings, including this year's 4-2 record.