South Carolina is playing for the outright SEC regular-season title tonight, having clinched a least a share of it on Sunday. It is the program's sixth regular-season conference title, but the first in the SEC.
The Gamecocks are playing tonight looking for just their first undefeated season at Colonial Life Arena and their second home undefeated season in school history (1978-79, 11-0 at Carolina Coliseum/Sol Blatt P.E. Center). South Carolina's record for home wins in a season is 17 set by the 2001-02 NCAA Elite Eight team at the Coliseum.
South Carolina leads the SEC and is fourth in the nation with a .488 field goal percentage, but just one Gamecock ranks among the SEC's top 15 in the category thanks to the balance of the South Carolina offense. The SEC and the NCAA require a minimum of five made field goals per game to qualify for the field goal percentage rankings. So, while Aleighsa Welch leads the league and ranks seventh in the nation, shooting 59.0 percent, Tiffany Mitchell's 52.0 percent, which would rank second in the SEC, is three made baskets shy of qualifying.
The Gamecocks' inside presence has been considerable this season with the three primary post players - Alaina Coates, Elem Ibiam and Aleighsa Welch - accounting for 48. percent of the team's scoring. The Gamecocks have scored 49.3 percent of points this season in the paint.
A South Carolina Win Would...
Give the Gamecocks sole possession of the 2014 SEC regular-season championship, their first in school history and the program's fourth outright conference title (Metro 1986, 1988, 1990).
Be the Gamecocks' 16th home win this season, breaking the 2006-07 team's Colonial Life Arena record of 15. The school record for home wins in a season is 17 set in 2001-02, during which South Carolina played two NCAA Tournament games at home.
By the Numbers 1 Double-double needed by center Alaina Coates to tie the Gamecock freshman record for double-doubles in a season (9 by Kelsey Bone in 2008-09) 5 Different Gamecocks who have been the team's high scorer in a game this season - Alaina Coates, Asia Dozier, Elem Ibiam, Tiffany Mitchell and Aleighsa Welch 6 Gamecocks who have posted (or tied for) a team high in assists at least once this season - Mitchell, Dozier, Sessions, Welch, Roy, Gaines 8 Different Gamecocks who have scored in double figures at least once this season - Welch, Mitchell, Coates, Ibiam, Sessions, Dozier, Roy, Davis 12 Individual 20-point games this season by the Gamecocks - five by Alaina Coates, four by Tiffany Mitchell and three by Aleighsa Welch 12 Games this season in which South Carolina has scored at least 50.0 percent of its points in the paint, including four of at least 60.0 percent of scoring coming from the paint (Chas. Sthrn., 70.7%; at USC, 60.0%; UK, 61.8%; at Vandy, 75.4%) 15 Weeks in which the Gamecocks have ranked fifth or higher in the Associated Press poll all-time. South Carolina returned to the AP top five in the Feb. 10 poll for the first time since Jan. 10, 1982. The Gamecocks' best ever ranking was No. 2, which it held for three weeks in December 1981. 29 Gamecocks in the 1,000-point club after newest member Aleighsa Welch joined in the first four minutes of the win at Kentucky (Feb. 20) 54 Blocked shots by center Alaina Coates this season, setting a new Gamecock freshman record and tying for fifth in school history 69 Blocks by junior center Elem Ibiam this season, resetting the school single-season record previously held by Lakesha Tolliver (2006-07) - her 113 career blocks rank seventh (record is 177 by Tolliver)
Georgia Series Notes
The Lady Bulldogs hold a 33-7 edge in the all-time series, but the Gamecocks have closed the gap in the Dawn Staley era with a 3-6 record in the last five seasons.
South Carolina suffered a heartbreaking 42-40 loss in Athens in the lone meeting last season (Jan. 13, 2013). The game featured seven lead changes and five ties, but the Gamecocks saw the Lady Bulldogs close it out at the free throw line and force a tough shot with three seconds left to escape with the win. Each team had just one player score in double figures - with both netting 19 points - and the two combined for 45 turnovers in the game.
The 2013 victory avenged the Lady Bulldogs' loss to the Gamecocks in the 2012 SEC Tournament, as South Carolina advanced to the semifinals for the first time in school history with 59-55 win in Nashville. The Gamecocks' last win over Georgia in Columbia was a 57-48 decision on Jan. 27, 2011.
For the first time in her tenure at South Carolina, head coach Dawn's Staley's Gamecocks look different - on the court and in the box score. After seasons of building around defense, Staley finally has a group that is designed for offensive efficiency. The Gamecocks are scoring more (74.7 ppg, 50th in nation) and more efficiently (.487 FG %age - 1st in SEC, 4th in nation) than at any time in the Staley era. And, after seasons of talented guards generating their own offense, Staley's 2013-14 success is predicated on getting the ball inside - three primary post players combine to score 48.1 percent of the team's points - and on ball movement creating the best shots as 59.3 percent of made field goals have been assisted. Defense is still a staple of the program with the Gamecocks ranking second in the SEC and fourth in the nation, allowing just 54.1 points per game.
Home Sweet Home
With comprehensive records beginning in the 1976-77 season (the third for women's basketball at South Carolina), the Gamecocks are 377-155 (.709) all-time in games played at home, including a 132-58 mark (.695) in Colonial Life Arena. In the sixth season with head coach Dawn Staley at the helm, South Carolina is 67-25 (.728) at home, including one game at Carolina Coliseum in the 2012-13 season. The Gamecocks have won 53 of their last 64 games played in Colonial Life Arena, including 17 straight.
Make It, Take It
South Carolina is exhibiting its most efficient offense of the Dawn Staley era this season, leading the SEC and ranking fourth in the nation with 48.7 percent accuracy from the field. The Gamecocks have shot 50.0 percent or higher 13 times this season - the most in a season under Staley - including six SEC contests. In fact, in the previous five seasons, South Carolina hit at least 50.0 percent of its field goal attempts just 12 times combined. The Gamecocks are shooting a league-best 48.2 percent in SEC action.
This year's top shooting effort was 60.9 percent against Charleston Southern (Nov. 8) - a program best under Staley - followed by a 60.8 percent showing against Ole Miss (Jan. 30). The Gamecocks made at least 65.0 percent of their attempts in a half five times this season, including a remarkable 73.9 percent (17-of-23) in the second half against Seton Hall (Nov. 17).
South Carolina's trio of primary post players - Alaina Coates, Elem Ibiam and Aleighsa Welch - has been a big key to the Gamecocks' offensive production so far this season. The trio has accounted for 969 of the team's 2,016 points this season - 48.1 percent - and is shooting a combined 59.2 percent from the field. Welch leads the way with 14.1 points per game (15th in SEC) on 59.0 percent shooting (leads SEC. 7th in nation). Coates shoots a team-best 63.9 percent from the field for 12.1 points per game (23rd in SEC). Ibiam adds 9.7 points per game on 54.8 percent shooting.
Drive for 5
The Gamecocks launched their "Drive for 5" women's basketball ticket campaign this season. Inspired by head coach Dawn Staley's jersey number during her Naismith Hall of Fame playing career, the campaign looks to bring at least 5,000 fans to every Gamecock women's basketball game. The Gamecocks were well on their way early in the season, surpassing 4,000 season tickets issued for the season for the first time in the Staley era.
The Gamecocks are currently averaging 5,965 fans per home game this season, a number that ranks third in the SEC and 11th in the nation.