Date: Saturday, March 3, 2012 Time: 6 p.m. (ET) Location: Nashville, Tenn. Arena: Bridgestone Arena (17,576) TV: ESPNU (Cara Capuano and Carolyn Peck); ESPN3 Radio: WISW 1320 AM (Brad Muller and Marcy Girton); GamecocksOnline.com Live Stats:SECdigitalnetwork.com Tennessee Series: UT leads 42-2; At Neutral Site: UT leads 4-0; In Columbia: UT leads 18-1; In Knoxville: UT leads 20-1
South Carolina Notables
This is the Gamecocks' first appearance in the SEC Tournament semifinal round. South Carolina has not progressed this far in its conference tournament since reaching the championship game of the 1991 Metro Conference Tournament.
South Carolina appears to have exorcised its demons on the free throw line here in Nashville. After shooting just 57.4 percent from the charity stripe at the close of the regular-season, the Gamecocks have shot 72.7 percent this week. Good free throw shooting delivered both of the team's wins as it sparked a 22-4 first-half run that decided the game against Alabama in the first round, and it also sealed the victory over Georgia in the quarterfinals.
The Gamecocks found success at the SEC Tournament getting points outside the usual sources. Entering the event accounting for 64.3 percent of the team's offense by either points or assists, South Carolina's trio of starting guards - who each earned All-SEC Second Team honors - has had a hand in just 48.3 percent of the team's scoring in the tournament.
Freshman Aleighsa Welch returned to the court Thursday night for the first time since spraining her right knee at Alabama on Feb. 19. She tied for team-high honors with five rebounds in nine minutes of action against the Crimson Tide. She is averaging 4.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per SEC Tournament game.
Freshman guard Tina Roy is second on the team in scoring in the SEC Tournament so far, adding 8.0 points per game. Roy hit back-to-back 3s as part of the decisive run against Alabama, then went on to drain a 3 last in the first half against Georgia to send the Gamecocks into the locker room with the lead.
A South Carolina Win Would...
Put the Gamecocks in a conference tournament title game for the first time since falling to Florida State in the 1991 Metro Conference Tournament championship game.
Be the Gamecocks' 24th of the season, the most since the 2001-02 team finished the season 25-7 after advancing to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight.
Be head coach Dawn Staley's 24th of the season, the most since she led her 2006-07 Temple team to a 25-8 record.
By the Numbers
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' seven regular-season SEC games decided by five or fewer points - at Florida (Jan. 8), at Vanderbilt (Jan. 22), at Tennessee (Feb. 2) and Florida (Feb. 12)
6.9 Margin of defeat in the Gamecocks' eight losses this season, including five games decided by five or fewer points
7 3-pointers by senior guard Markeshia Grant at Tennessee (Feb. 2), which is tied for the most in the SEC this season
8 Games this season that junior guard Ieasia Walker has handed out five or more assists, during which the Gamecocks are 6-2
11 Players in school history who have started 100 career games after senior guard La'Keisha Sutton joined the group against Alabama (March 1)
13 Games in which freshman Aleighsa Welch has led the team in rebounding, during which the Gamecocks are 12-1
17 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
22 Games this season in which the Gamecock defense held its opponent to 55 or fewer points, during which South Carolina is 18-4
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 (Jan. 5)
67 Games won by this year's senior class (assumes four-year careers), making it the most since the 2004 class captured 69