Date: Sunday, February 19, 2012 Time: 3 p.m (ET) Location: Tuscaloosa, Ala. Arena: Foster Auditorium (3,800) TV: Fox Sports South (Dave Baker and Van Chancellor); ESPN3 (Subject to blackout in SEC states) Radio: WISW 1320 AM (Brad Muller and Marcy Girton); GamecocksOnline.com Live Stats:Rolltide.com Alabama Series: ALA leads 15-14; In Tuscaloosa: ALA leads 8-5; In Columbia: SC leads 9-5, At Neutral Site: ALA leads 2-0
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 Gamecocks are 16-0 this season (7-0 SEC) when scoring at least 60 points. Leaving them 3-7 overall (1-5 SEC) when failing to hit that mark.
Just two of South Carolina's seven losses have been by double digits. In fact, four of the defeats have been by five points or less, including two of the ones against nationally ranked opponents - Penn State (then-#11/12) and Georgia (#18/15).
Senior guards Markeshia Grant and La'Keisha Sutton have combined to score 47.2 percent of the team's 60.2 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 and one for Sutton
While turning the high-scoring duties over to her hot-shooting backcourt mates during the last five games, junior Ieasia Walker has turned in the most well-rounded stat line, averaging 5.0 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 9.0 points. Her career-high seven assists against Ole Miss moved her into the team lead in assists both overall (3.3) and per SEC outing (3.8). She is currently third in the SEC in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4) in league games. Her league assist average ranks fifth.
Senior forward Charenee Stephens pulled down a season-high 11 rebounds against #18/15 Georgia on Thursday and needs just three more to move into 23rd place in career rebounds in school history.
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' 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' fourth straight over Alabama, making it the only SEC team against which head coach Dawn Staley is undefeated.
By the Numbers
1 Rank of freshman forward Aleighsa Welch in the SEC in field goal percentage this season (.608)
3 Rebounds needed by senior Charenee Stephens to move into 24th place in career boards in South Carolina history
4 Wins in the Gamecocks' six SEC games decided by five or fewer points - at Florida (Jan. 8), at Vanderbilt (Jan. 22), at Tennessee (Feb. 2) and Florida (Feb. 12)
5 Games of scoring 20 or more points for senior guard Markeshia Grant this season, the first of her career
7 Times in history that a Gamecock has finished the season averaging at least 3.8 assists in SEC games, which is the current average of junior guard Ieasia Walker
8 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 6-2
12 Games in which freshman forward Aleighsa Welch has led the team in rebounding, 11 of which were 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 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
78.7 Percent of team's 60.2 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
South Carolina suffered a 61-59 loss to #18/15 Georgia Thursday night in a game that neither team could control and saw the final nine points of the outing scored at the free throw line in the final 1:17. The Gamecocks had a two-point lead at halftime, but saw the Lady Bulldogs trade that for an eight-point lead midway through the second half. South Carolina fought back behind the offensive aggression of junior Ieasia Walker and the board work of senior Charenee Stephens. Georgia took a five-point lead into the final 90 seconds of the game, but Walker knotted things up at 54-54 with 12 seconds to play. A pair of Lady Bulldog free throws with five seconds to go would end up winning the game after Walker's 3 tapped the front of the rim and caromed out.
Alabama Series Notes
The Crimson Tide leads the series 15-14, but the Gamecocks have won 11 of the last 14 meetings, including the last four. Alabama does hold an 8-5 edge in games played in Tuscaloosa.
South Carolina won the first meeting of this season, the SEC debut for both teams, 68-42. The 26-point margin of victory was the highest for Staley in an SEC outing since taking over the Gamecock program for the 2008-09. The last time Alabama topped South Carolina on its home court was Feb. 27, 2000, when it collected a 69-67 victory.
Junior Ieasia Walker and senior Markeshia Grant have been the most productive Gamecocks against the Crimson Tide, averaging 12.7 and 12.5 points, respectively. The duo scored a combined 23 points in this season's first meeting. Their backcourt mate, La'Keisha Sutton, was been the play-maker against Alabama, averaging 5.0 assists in her three career games.
South Carolina has a 186-234 (.443) 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 17-25 in road games. In her 11th season as a head coach, Staley has a 79-71 road record.
The Gamecocks are 7-34 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 89-191 all-time in its 21st season SEC regular-season play. The Gamecocks are 58-83 in SEC games played in Columbia with a 31-108 record on the road. The Gamecocks are 23-22 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 123-59 record in league play, including eight seasons leading her Temple teams to a 99-25 Atlantic 10 mark.
Figuring Out February
The Gamecocks are 178-138 (.563) all-time in the month of February, including a 101-39 (.721) record at home. Under head coach Dawn Staley, South Carolina is 10-15 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 2-2 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. South Carolina is 1-4 this season playing as a ranked team, pushing the program's record to 164-72 all-time.
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.
One of the keys to the Gamecocks' success this season as been their depth. Going to the bench without losing momentum has not been a luxury head coach Dawn Staley has enjoyed in her time at South Carolina until this season. It is the first time in her tenure that no player is averaging 30 minutes per game. While injuries had an impact on that figure in previous seasons, this is also the first time in the Staley era that more than one bench player has seen action in every game as seven Gamecocks have appeared in all 26 games this season.