Date: Sunday, February 26, 2012 Time: 2 p.m. Location: Columbia, S.C. Arena: Colonial Life Arena Tickets: $7 adult, $4 youth (17 & under) TV: SEC Network (Cara Capuano and Abby Waner); In Columbia, airs on WKTC My 63 (TWC Ch. 4); ESPN3 Radio: WISW 1320 AM (Brad Muller and Marcy Girton); GamecocksOnline.com Live Stats:GamecocksOnline.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 nine SEC games for the just the third time in its 21 seasons in the league. The program has posted eight or more SEC wins just four times with two of those coming in the Dawn Staley era. The Gamecocks won a school-record 10 SEC games in 2002.
The Gamecocks are 17-0 this season (8-0 SEC) when scoring at least 60 points.
Freshman Aleighsa Welch will not play today due to a right knee sprain suffered in the second half of last Sunday's game at Alabama. She is tentatively expected to return at the SEC Tournament.
Despite missing its leading scorer and rebounder in Aleighsa Welch, the South Carolina frontcourt contributed 23 of the team's 50 points (46.0%) at #13/10 Kentucky on Thursday night, the highest percentage since the group scored 53.8 percent of the team's 65 points against Vanderbilt on Jan. 5. For the season, the Gamecocks' six forwards have scored 33.3 percent of the team's 60.9 points per game.
Playing in the final home game of their careers, this year's senior class saved the best for last with the program's best season in nearly a decade. This year, South Carolina has its most overall and SEC wins since 2002-03 and the most wins over nationally ranked teams since the same year. This season's elder stateswomen also achieved a few things no other had - a win over Tennessee in Knoxville and season sweeps of Vanderbilt and Florida.
A South Carolina Win Would...
Give the Gamecocks 21 regular-season wins for the first time since the 2002-03 team carried a 21-6 record into postseason play.
Be the Gamecocks' 10th SEC win of the season, which would tie the 2001-02 team for the most in school history.
Be the first Senior Day victory since the 2007 class topped Mississippi State 72-66 in overtime on Feb. 25.
By the Numbers
.332 Career 3-point field goal percentage for senior guard Markeshia Grant, which would rank her sixth in school history (minimum 160 attempts)
2 Starts needed by La'Keisha Sutton this season to become just the 11th Gamecock to start 100 games in her career
4 Wins in the Gamecocks' seven 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
6.9 Margin of defeat in the Gamecocks' eight losses this season, including five games decided by five or fewer points, compared to their 17.9-point margin of victory
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, during which the Gamecocks are 6-2
12 Rebounds needed by senior Charenee Stephens to move into 21st place in career boards in South Carolina history, which she would share with Shaunzinski Gortman (1999-2002) at 576
15 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
18 Rank of senior guard La'Keisha Sutton on the Gamecocks' career points list (1,214), trailing 17th-place Lisa Diaz (1987-90) by 35 points
19 Games this season in which the Gamecock defense held its opponent to no more than 55 points, during which South Carolina is 15-4
23 Points scored by the Gamecock frontcourt of the team's total of 50 at #13/10 Kentucky - the highest percentage of scoring by post players (.460) since the forwards netted 53.8 percent of the team's 65 points against Vanderbilt on Jan. 5
64 Games won by this year's senior class (assumes four-year careers), making it the most since the 2005 class captured 66.
Last Time Out
South Carolina out-shot and out-rebounded #13/10 Kentucky Thursday night, but the Wildcats survived a late Gamecock rally for a 53-50 victory in their final home game of the season. The Gamecocks matched the Wildcats in points off turnovers, but saw the game decided at the free throw line, where Kentucky sank three of its final four attempts to hold off the charging Gamecocks. Junior forward Ashley Bruner posted her second double-double of the season, first in SEC play, with 13 points and 11 rebounds, including six offensive. La'Keisha Sutton led the offense with 14 points, capped by a pair of free throws to bring the Gamecocks within one shot of sending the game into overtime.
Arkansas Series Notes
The Razorbacks lead the series 17-8 after their 68-47 victory just two weeks ago today. Still, the Gamecocks have won four of the last seven meetings. Arkansas won the most recent matchup at Colonial Life Arena 72-68 on Feb. 14, 2010. But, the Gamecocks hold a 6-5 over the Razorbacks in the overall series at home.
Sutton is the highest-scoring player on the Gamecock roster against Arkansas, averaging 11.5 points over her four games with the Razorbacks. She has also handed out 4.3 assists per game over the stretch, while senior Charenee Stephens has reeled in 5.5 boards per matchup with Arkansas in her career.
Get on the Move
This year South Carolina athletics launched the Active Gamecocks program, which is a statewide initiative to combat increasing problems in childhood obesity. In its first segment, which tracked activity Jan. 9-20, over 3,400 students from 62 schools and organizations participated. All participating students and physical education teachers were invited to two basketball games, including today's women's game.
Home Sweet Home
South Carolina has won 69.6 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 348-152 mark includes a 104-55 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 11-3 at Colonial Life Arena, including a 5-2 mark in SEC action.
Life in the League
South Carolina is 90-192 all-time in its 21st season SEC regular-season play. The Gamecocks are 58-83 in SEC games played in Columbia with a 32-109 record on the road. The Gamecocks are 24-23 in conference play since head coach Dawn Staley's first season in the league yielded a 2-12 mark.
This season's nine SEC wins are the most of the Dawn Staley era and match the mark of the 2002-03 squad, which finished 9-5. It is just the third time in its 21 seasons in the league that South Carolina has 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 124-60 record in league play, including eight seasons leading her Temple teams to a 99-25 Atlantic 10 mark.
Figuring Out February
The Gamecocks are 179-139 (.562) all-time in the month of February, including a 101-39 (.721) record at home. Under head coach Dawn Staley, South Carolina is 11-16 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 3-3 so far this February.
Rating the Ranked
South Carolina is 54-192 against nationally ranked teams in its 38th season of women's basketball. The Gamecocks have collected 29 of those 54 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 Dawn Staley era, the highest ranked team the Gamecocks have defeated was at then-No. 8 Tennessee on Feb. 9, 2012, by a score of 64-60.
In the last three seasons South Carolina has defeated a nationally ranked team nine times in 28 outings, including this year's 4-4 record.
Senior Day Send Off
South Carolina will recognize the five members of its senior class prior to today's game. The group includes the first set of Gamecocks to play in each of head coach Dawn Staley's four seasons at the helm. Courtney Newton, Charenee Stephens and La'Keisha Sutton were with Staley for the first 10-18 season, and, four years later, have doubled their win total. Ebony Wilson joined the program for Staley's second season, and Markeshia Grant has only known postseason play in her two seasons in the Garnet and Black.
Behind the leadership of this group of five, the Gamecocks have set a new benchmark for success. This season's win totals both overall and in SEC action are the most since 2002-03. This year's team delivered the program's first ever win over Tennessee in Knoxville and earned the program's first national ranking since the end of the 2002-03 season. This season caps a four-year run that includes 64 wins, the most since the 2005 class graduated with 66 victories. Though they are one group, each member has her own story.
Newton began her career in 2007-08, a season that was shortened by a knee injury. Having earned her bachelor's degree in 2010, she chose to come back for a fifth year to be part of this season's historic success. She has started more than half the games she has played in her career and has been a regular presence in the starting lineup each of the last two seasons. Newton is a semester way from earning her graduate degree in counseling education and has been the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee President for the last two seasons.
Stephens is one of just 25 players in Gamecock history to pull down 500 career rebounds and ranks third in school history in percentage of offensive rebounds as nearly half of her boards have come off the offensive glass. As a sophomore, her career-high 20 points against #23/24 San Diego State headlined the program's first win over a ranked team in the Staley era. She went on to finish among the top 10 in the SEC in rebounds that season. She is also one of nine players to turn in a perfect shooting night at Colonial Life Arena (minimum five attempts). Stephens is set to graduate this May with her degree in psychology.
Sutton has etched her name in the South Carolina history books as one of the program's elite guards. She is just the 11th Gamecock to record 300 assists while also scoring at least 1,000 points. She is two starts shy of 100 in her career, which only nine other players in school history have achieved. Thrust into the spotlight due to injuries as a freshman, Sutton has refined her game and her role on the team throughout her four years. She has been among the team's top three scorers every year of her career. Upon completion of the senior semester practicum required for her major, Sutton will graduate with a degree in broadcast journalism.
Wilson has played in all but a handful of games since joining the team for the 2009-10 season. Her defensive effort has made her a Staley favorite off the bench, and she has had a hand in several second-half comebacks in her career thanks to her peerless fullcourt pressure. Wilson will graduate in May with her degree in psychology.
Grant was a solid contributor last season who turned offseason hard work into a headlining senior campaign. After closing last season with four straight double-figure scoring postseason games, she has netted 10 or more points 15 times this season, including five 20-point outings. She ranks among the top-20 scorers in the SEC and is fifth in 3-point field goal percentage. Her .332 career 3-point field goal percentage currently ranks sixth in school history. Grant will graduate in May with a degree in psychology.