Feb. 28, 2018
SEC Tournament Quarterfinal
COLUMBIA, S.C. — No. 8/8 South Carolina heads to Nashville for the 2018 SEC Tournament, beginning with the quarterfinals on Friday. The second seed in the tournament, the Gamecocks (23-6, 12-4 SEC) will take on the winner of Thursday’s Auburn/Tennessee game.
CLEAR BAG POLICY
Fans attending the 2018 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament will be asked to enter those events with clear bags and should be prepared to arrive early and to see a law enforcement presence in and around Bridgestone Arena. Click here for more specific information about the league’s policy for the tournament.
South Carolina Notables
South Carolina is 14-6 in SEC Tournament action in the Dawn Staley era (2009-present), including winning the last three times the event was contested. The last time the tournament was held in Nashville (2012) was the first season the Gamecocks advanced to the event's semifinals after entering the tournament as the No. 6 seed. Under Staley, South Carolina is 3-2 in SEC Tournament games played in Nashville.
The Gamecocks will attempt to make history this weekend as they vie for their fourth-straight SEC Tournament crown. South Carolina's three consecutive titles (2015-17) currently match Tennessee's three-year championship runs (2010-12 and 1998-2000) as the longest tournament title streaks in league history.
South Carolina has long been a defensive stalwart in the SEC, and the Gamecocks ranked third in the league this season allowing just 64.1 points per SEC game. Only six games have seen an opponent score 70 or more points, including just three in conference play. The Gamecocks have held their last seven opponents to 67 or fewer points.
Offensively, the Gamecocks are built around strength in the paint, whether it come from the frontcourt or aggressive guard play. On the season, 68.1 percent of South Carolina's made field goals have come in the paint, where it averages 38.8 points to account for 50.4 percent of its offense.
National player of the year candidate A'ja Wilson continues to prove she is at her best when the spotlight is brightest. Ranked in the top 10 in the nation in scoring, rebounding and blocked shot average, she is, in fact, the only player to rank among the top 40 in each of those categories. In 10 games against ranked opponents this season, she averages 21.6 points and 13.8 rebounds.
Second-Team All-SEC guard Tyasha Harris keeps the Gamecocks on track offensively, whether she is scoring or distributing For the season, she is second on the team with a plus/minus of +14.62. She averages 11.2 points per game and has assisted on 25.9 percent of her teammates' made field goals – 6.3 assists per game.
By the Numbers
5 Straight seasons that a Gamecock has been named the SEC Player of the Year
5 Active Gamecocks who average double-figure points in the three games played without A'ja Wilson
7 Consecutive seasons in which South Carolina has recorded double-digit SEC wins and at least 20 total wins
7.5 Average national ranking of the teams that have defeated South Carolina this season
8 Four-time First-Team All-SEC selections in league history after A'ja Wilson earned her fourth this week
29 Points needed by A'ja Wilson to tie the program's all-time scoring record
The Tennessee Series
The Lady Vols lead the series 48-5 after ending a three-game skid to the Gamecocks with three straight victories, including two earlier this season. This quarterfinal matchup would be the sixth time in the last eight meetings that both teams have been ranked in the top 15 in the nation with Tennessee holding a 3-2 edge in the previous five such contests. Both of this season's game between the Gamecocks and Lady Vols were notable by the absence of South Carolina senior forward A'ja Wilson. Without the three-time SEC Player of the Year on the court, the Lady Vols won the battle of the paint (46.0-29.0) and on the glass (43.5-29.5). In the most recent meeting, the Gamecocks saw a tough-shooting third quarter erase a five-point halftime lead on the Lady Vols' homecourt in the season finale. In Columbia, the Gamecocks rallied back from a double-digit deficit to get within four points midway through the fourth quarter before the deeper Lady Vols pushed back to the victory.
The Auburn Series
The Gamecocks' eight-game win streak against the Tigers has put them in front in the series 23-21. South Carolina is 11-3 against the Tigers in the Dawn Staley era. The Gamecocks have been nationally ranked in every game of the current eight-game win streak, winning by an average of 14.0 points per game, although four of the games have been decided by single digits, including the matchup earlier this season in Columbia.
After not having an SEC Player of the Year for its first 22 seasons in the league, South Carolina boasts the last five winners of the award in Tiffany Mitchell and A'ja Wilson. This season, Wilson became the first SEC player to capture the award for the third time. An impressive feat in a league that boasts players like WNBA greats Sylvia Fowles, Candace Parker, Seimone Augusts, Tamika Catchings and Chamique Holdsclaw – just to name a few. Wilson and Fowles remain the only SEC players to collect the league player of the year and defensive player of the year awards in the same season with Wilson turning the trick twice – 2016 and 2018. Wilson also joined an elite group of players who earned First-Team All-SEC honors all four years of her career. She is the eighth entry on that list and the first since Georgia's Tasha Humphrey completed her stretch 2005-08.
Missing Persons Report
Beginning the season with a roster that returned just two starters and two other significant contributors to last season's national championship, South Carolina has played through a series of injuries to some of its primary players. Excluding senior guard Bianca Cuevas-Moore, who is out of the season, at least one Gamecock has been out of the lineup with injury in 16 of South Carolina's first 29 games. Leading scorer A'ja Wilson accounts for three of those games, including two against a ranked opponent, with her ankle injury (Feb. 14-18) and vertigo (Feb. 25). Before she was deemed out for the season on Feb. 11, primary outside shooter Lindsey Spann missed a combined nine games with separate knee injuries. Mikiah Herbert Harrigan missed three January games with a bone bruise. In fact, the Gamecocks had their full complement of players available in just five of their 12 games against nationally ranked opponents.
With or Without You
The Gamecocks are 1-2 in their three games without A'ja Wilson this season. A closer look at the numbers shows that, despite leading the SEC in scoring, Wilson's biggest impact on the game comes on the defensive end.
In the three games without their senior All-American, the Gamecocks average 70.3 points compared to their 72.3 points per SEC game played with Wilson. The team field goal percentage actually wet up without Wilson – 47.3 percent in the three games vs. 44.4 percent the rest of the SEC slate.
Defense and rebounding tell the tale of the 1-2 record, though. In the three games in which they didn't have to face Wilson, opponents averaged 77.7 points on 48.7 percent shooting. In the other 13 SEC outings, opponents averaged 61.0 points on 37.6 percent shooting. The Gamecocks went from a +6.7 rebounding margin in SEC games with Wilson to a -6.7 margin without her.
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