Women's hoops earns fifth seed at event and will take on winner of Mississippi State/Alabama game Wednesday night.
March 6, 2013
GAMECOCK WOMEN'S BASKETBALL
South Carolina Game Notes
Thursday, March 7, 2013
The Arena at Gwinnett Center
SportSouth (Dave Neal play-by-play; Nell Fortner, analyst)
Live Video: ESPN3
WISW 1320 AM (Brad Muller); GamecocksOnline.com
Live Stats: SECdigitalnetwork.com
13-16 vs. Mississippi State, 17-15 vs. Alabama
- South Carolina won a school-record 11 SEC games this season, surpassing the mark of the 2011-12 and 2001-02 squads. The Gamecocks finished tied for fourth in the conference standings for the second-straight season and just the third time in their history in the SEC. The Gamecocks have won 36 SEC games over the last four seasons under Staley, the highest four-year total since joining the league in 1991-92.
- The Gamecocks are in the midst of its second-straight 20-win season, just the fourth for the program since joining the SEC. South Carolina's 23 regular-season wins tie the school record of 23, set by the 1979-80 team en route to a 30-6 final ledger.
- Ranked sixth in the nation in scoring defense, South Carolina has held its opponent to 48 or fewer points in 17 of 29 games this season, including seven SEC foes. Just three teams have reached the 60-point mark against the Gamecocks this season.
- Senior guard Ieasia Walker was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year, making her the first Gamecock to earn one of the league's player of the year awards from the league's coaches. She became the first South Carolina representative on the All-SEC First Team since Jocelyn Penn in 2003. Walker is the second-straight Gamecock to appear on the league's All-Defensive Team.
- With senior forward Ashley Bruner and sophomore forward Aleighsa Welch joining Walker in all-conference honors (second team for both), this is the second-straight season that three Gamecocks have been recognized by the league's coaches among the SEC's best players.
- South Carolina's bench has gained experience and confidence in the second half of the SEC campaign, especially on the offensive end. Staley has used just two starting lineups this season, switching one Gamecock for three games down the stretch. In the last eight SEC games, the four reserves have lifted their offensive contributions by nearly 10 percent over the first eight. They scored at least 30.0 percent of the team's points four times in the last eight outings, the first games hitting that percentage of points.
- With five steals against Florida (Mar. 3), senior guard Ieasia Walker became one of three Gamecocks all-time to amass at least 1,000 points, 250 assists and 250 steals in her career. She joins three-time All-SEC selection Shannon Johnson (1993-96) and three-time All-America and two-time Metro Conference Player of the Year Martha Parker (1986-89). Walker is 21st in school history in career scoring (1,108), fourth in career steals (250) and 17th in career assists (294).
- South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley has been named one of 12 finalists for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2013. Finalists must receive 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election into the Hall. The Class of 2013 will be announced on April 8 prior to the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game.
A South Carolina Win Would...
- Make it three straight seasons that the Gamecocks have won their first game of the SEC Tournament.
- Make head coach Dawn Staley even at 4-4 in SEC Tournament games.
By the Numbers
1 Gamecock to earn one of the SEC's player of the year awards from the league's coaches with senior guard Ieasia Walker's selection as the Defensive Player of the Year this season
2 Entries by sophomore Aleighsa Welch in the Gamecocks' all-time top six in single-season offensive rebounds, including this season's entry of 118 among the top three
3 Gamecocks all-time that have amassed at least 1,000 points, 250 assists and 250 steals in their career with senior guard Ieasia Walker joining the group in the regular-season finale against Florida (Mar. 3)
4 20-win seasons for South Carolina since joining the SEC for the 1991-92 season, including this season, which is the second consecutive 20-win effort under head coach Dawn Staley
7 SEC games this season in which the South Carolina defense has allowed 48 or fewer points (17 total for the season)
9 Double-doubles by sophomore forward Aleighsa Welch this season
18 Of the last 28 Associated Press polls that have included the Gamecocks, dating back to Jan. 9, 2012
38 Regular-season SEC wins among the program's 102 that have come in the last five seasons under head coach Dawn Staley (37.3 percent)
The Mississippi State Series
The Bulldogs hold a 16-13 edge in the series but have not defeated the Gamecocks since Feb. 11, 2010. South Carolina stretched its win streak to four with a regular-season sweep of Mississippi State. The Gamecocks followed a 60-46 victory in Starkville on Jan. 6 with a 58-43 showing on Feb. 24 in Columbia. The two teams have played twice before in the SEC Tournament with Mississippi State coming out on top both times. The last was a 49-39 battle on March 5, 2009.
The Alabama Series
South Carolina holds a 17-15 edge over Alabama thanks to a seven-game win streak against the Crimson Tide since head coach Dawn Staley took the reins of the program. In fact, the Gamecocks have won 10 of the last 11 games and, going back even farther, 14 of the last 17 - beginning in 2000-01.
The Gamecocks claimed the lone meeting this season, a 65-53 affair in Tuscaloosa on Feb. 7. The South Carolina frontcourt dominated the proceedings, scoring 43 of the team's 65 points in the game. The Gamecocks and Crimson Tide met in last season's SEC Tournament with South Carolina coming out on top 57-38 on the first day of the event.
The Gamecocks' last loss to Alabama was a 65-54 outcome on Jan. 10, 2008, in Tuscaloosa.
South Carolina senior guard Ieasia Walker became the first Gamecock to earn one of the SEC's player of the year awards from the league's coaches. Her effort is the point in the spear of a defense that has ranked among the best in the country the last few seasons, including this season's No. 6 ranking in scoring defense. As head coach Dawn Staley said, "[Ieasia's] hard work and commitment sets the tone and standard for our defensive expectations."
Gamecocks' Five-Second Count
With a complementary blend of youth and experience, South Carolina opened a season 10-0 for the first time since the 1981-82 team also won its first 10 contests. The Gamecocks, now 23-6 overall and 11-5 in SEC action, have shown they have both inside and outside offensive options and are dominant on the glass this season while the defense has dropped off very little from last season's NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 effort. Four Gamecocks average more than nine points with four others netting 4.0 or more per game. South Carolina ranks 11th in the nation with a +8.9 rebounding margin and has two players ranked among the SEC's top 10 rebounders. Defensively, the Gamecocks are sixth in the nation in scoring defense, yielding just 49.6 points per game. South Carolina has held its opponent to 50 or fewer points 19 times in 29 games and limited an opponent to under 30 percent field goal shooting seven times, including Hampton (Nov. 22), which hit just 19.3 percent (11-57) from the field for the second-lowest opponent field goal percentage of the Staley era, and Vanderbilt (Jan. 10), which shot just 26.5 percent after coming into the game with the SEC's second-highest field goal accuracy at 45.2.
This season's trio of seniors has helped lift South Carolina women's basketball to new heights. The group owns two of the program's four 20-win seasons in the SEC era and contributed to last season's return to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003.
Four-year seniors Ashley Bruner and Ieasia Walker have contributed to more South Carolina victories (80) than any four-year class since the 1991-92 graduates finished with 82 wins as the Gamecocks made their SEC debut. In the last four years, the duo has helped the Gamecocks to more than one-third of the program's total SEC regular-season victories.
Individually, Bruner is one of just 18 Gamecocks all-time who have collected at least 600 career rebounds. Walker is one of just three in South Carolina history to accumulate 1,000 career points while also handing out 250 career assists and swiping 250 career steals. White has established herself as one of the top one-on-one defenders, routinely taking on the challenge of shutting down an opponent's top scorer to help the Gamecocks become the sixth-stingiest defense in the nation.
South Carolina amassed a combined 16 double-doubles this season, split among three Gamecocks, after last season's group posted just two (both by Ashley Bruner). The Gamecocks saw two double-doubles in three different games this season - at Seton Hall (Dec. 2, Tiffany Mitchell and Aleighsa Welch)), vs. South Carolina State (Dec. 21, Mitchell and Welch) and at Alabama (Feb. 7, Bruner and Welch).
Aleighsa Welch got the ball rolling against Savannah State (Nov. 15) with the first of her career, and her second against Hampton (Nov. 22) started a run of five straight games in which a Gamecock posted a double-double. She leads the team with nine double-doubles on the season. Seven of the group's 16 have come in SEC play, and Bruner leads that charge with four of her five coming against league opponents.
SEC Tournament Tally
South Carolina is 6-21 all-time in the SEC Tournament, but the Gamecocks have posted a 4-4 record in their four visits with head coach Dawn Staley. South Carolina reached the event semifinals for the first time in school history in 2012, upending third-seeded Georgia in the quarterfinals to set up a showdown with second-seed Tennessee. The Gamecocks have been seeded among the top four teams just once - at the 2002 tournament, during which they lost in their first game against Arkansas.
The Gamecocks are 1-2 in SEC Tournament games played in Duluth, Ga., with the lone win coming in the 2007 edition with a narrow 65-63 win over ninth-seeded Auburn
Life in the League
South Carolina finished the 2012-13 season tied for fourth in the SEC, marking the third time the Gamecocks have finished among the top four teams. The program-record 11 SEC wins this season were enough for the second-straight fourth-place finish under head coach Dawn Staley. In fact, since joining the league for the 1991-92 season, South Carolina has finished in the top five just five times with three of those coming under Staley, who has accounted for 36.9 percent of the program's 103 SEC regular-season victories.
South Carolina is 103-197 (.343) all-time in its 22nd season of SEC regular-season play. The Gamecocks are 65-85 (.433) in SEC games played in Columbia with a 37-112 record (.248) on the road. Under head coach Dawn Staley, the Gamecocks have a 38-40 (.487) SEC record, which includes a 2-12 slate in her first season at the helm. The program's 36 SEC regular-season victories in the last four seasons are the best four-year mark for the program.
Overall, Staley boasts a 137-65 (.678) record in league play, including eight seasons leading her Temple teams to a 99-25 (.798) Atlantic 10 mark.
Rendering the RPI
With a 23-6 record, including 10 wins away from home, the Gamecocks are 12th in the NCAA RPI released on March 4. South Carolina is one of five SEC schools rated among the top 20. Only Tennessee at seventh and Kentucky at ninth rank ahead of the Gamecocks.