Date: Saturday, March 23, 2013 Time: 4:10 p.m. (ET) Location: Boulder, Colo. - NCAA Tournament First Round Arena: Coors Events Center (11,064) TV: ESPN2 (Full game in team markets, whip-around coverage out of market) Online Video:ESPN3 (If outside the U.S., click here Radio: WISW 1320 AM; GamecocksOnline.com Live Stats:GamecocksOnline.com South Dakota State Series: First Meeting
This is the Gamecocks' 10th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and their second-straight under head coach Dawn Staley, who is making her eighth trip to NCAAs as a head coach. Last season's run to the Sweet 16 was the best showing in the event for Staley on the sidelines. As a player, she helped Virginia to three Final Fours.
The Gamecocks are in the midst of their second-straight 20-win season, just the fourth for the program since joining the SEC. South Carolina's 23 regular-season wins tied the school record, set by the 1979-80 team en route to a 30-6 finish.
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.
South Carolina has held its opponent to 48 or fewer points in 18 of 31 games this season, including eight SEC foes. Just four 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.
The Gamecocks' frontcourt tandem of senior Ashley Bruner and sophomore Aleighsa Welch have combined for 16 double-doubles this season - eight times as many as the team amassed in all of 2011-12. Opponents have to pick their poison, so to speak. Early in the season, the defense focused on Bruner, allowing Welch to pile up six of her nine double-doubles by December. In SEC action, as defensive attention turned to Welch, Bruner asserted herself, collecting four of her seven double-doubles in the last seven games.
A South Carolina Win Would...
Be the Gamecocks' second-straight NCAA Tournament first-round win.
Tie last season's win total with 25 again this season, the most by the program in the SEC era (beginning 1991-92)
By the Numbers 2 Entries by sophomore Aleighsa Welch in the Gamecocks' all-time top six in single-season offensive rebounds, including this season's entry of 121 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 Opponents that have scored 60 or more points against the Gamecocks this season, helping South Carolina to No. 4 in the nation in scoring defense 5 New entries this season in the top five single-game rebounding margins of the Dawn Staley era after a +23 mark against Mississippi State (Feb. 24) came in at No. 5 6.8 Points per game by which the Gamecocks lost to top-20 opponents this season - four of the six losses were decided by four or fewer points and just one was by double digits 7 Games this season in which South Carolina has allowed fewer than 20 points in the first half, including the SEC Tournament game against Alabama (March 7) 14 Deficit at halftime for the Gamecocks against Drexel before coming back to win in overtime, the largest deficit South Carolina has overcome since rallying from 18 points down with 8:15 to play in the first half against LSU on Jan. 6, 2011 and the largest second-half deficit overcome by the Gamecocks in the Dawn Staley era 16 Double-doubles posted by sophomore forward Aleighsa Welch (9) and senior forward Ashley Bruner (7) this season 18 Gamecocks all-time who have collected 600 career rebounds since senior forward Ashley Bruner joined the group on Feb. 3 at Alabama - her 678 career rebounds are 15th in school history (10 behind Iva Sliskovic in 14th) 20 Of the last 30 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 South Dakota State Series
The Gamecocks and Jackrabbits have never met, although they nearly did in last year's NCAA Tournament. South Dakota State drew the 13th seed in the Fresno Region, taking on host Purdue in the first round with the winner advancing to play South Carolina. The Boilermakers came out with the win, however, forcing the Gamecocks and Jackrabbits to wait for this season for their first meeting.
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 24-7 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 ninth in the nation with a +9.3 rebounding margin and has two players ranked among the SEC's top 10 rebounders. Defensively, the Gamecocks are fourth in the nation in scoring defense, yielding just 49.5 points per game. South Carolina has held its opponent to 50 or fewer points 20 times in 31 games and limited an opponent to under 30 percent field goal shooting eight 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.
With a win at Alabama (Feb. 7), South Carolina posted its second-consecutive 20-win season. In now 39 seasons of women's basketball, the Gamecocks have compiled 12 seasons of 20 or more victories. Four of those have come while playing in the SEC (since 1991-92 season), and two of those are under current head coach Dawn Staley.
South Carolina matched the school record with its 23rd regular-season victory against Florida (March 3). The effort ties that of the 1979-80 season, which Gamecocks finished with a 30-6 record and ranked No. 4 in the nation.
Staley now has eight 20-win seasons on her coaching resume. She reached the plateau during the regular season in five of those seasons, including the 2004-05 effort during which her Temple Owls went 24-3 in the regular season before finishing 28-4.
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 for the first time since 2003, advancing to the Sweet 16.
Fourth-year seniors Ashley Bruner and Ieasia Walker have contributed to more South Carolina victories (81) 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, Bruner and Walker have 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 and ranks 15th in school history with 678. 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.
Safe at Sixty
With the Gamecocks' steady defensive effort, the offense has not had to put up gaudy numbers to win games in the Dawn Staley era. In South Carolina's 156 games under Staley, the Gamecocks have scored 60 or more points 85 times with a 67-18 record in those games. That number includes a 15-1 mark this season with the lone loss coming in the Gamecocks' 78-74 defeat at then-No. 9/7 Kentucky. Defensively, in the 128 games played in the last four seasons (including this season), a South Carolina opponent has scored 60 or more points just 29 times. The Gamecocks have won just seven of those games.
South Carolina amassed a combined 18 double-doubles this season, split among three Gamecocks, after last season's team 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 18 have come in SEC play, and Bruner leads that charge with four of her seven coming in regular-season conference play, while she posted two more in the SEC Tournament.
NCAA Tournament Tally
South Carolina is making its 10th NCAA Tournament appearance and its second in as many seasons. The Gamecocks are 10-9 overall at the event, including last season's 2-1 mark en route to the Sweet 16. The program's four Sweet 16 appearances include a run to the 2002 Elite Eight - the deepest into the event any South Carolina basketball team has gone. The Gamecocks have won at least one game in the tournament in six of the nine previous seasons at the event.
South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley has taken a team to the NCAA Tournament seven times, including two South Carolina teams. She is 4-7 as a head coach at the event.
Musing on March
South Carolina is 61-53 (.535) all-time in the month of March, including an 8-8 (.533) record under fifth-year head coach Dawn Staley. The Gamecocks are 17-7 (.708) in home games during the third month of the calendar year, including a 4-3 (.571) mark at Colonial Life Arena. South Carolina is 13-10 (.435) in March road games and 31-34 (.477) at neutral sites during the month.
Rating the Ranked
South Carolina is 1-6 this season against nationally ranked opponents with an all-time record of 57-200 in the category. Under head coach Dawn Staley, the Gamecocks are 12-26 against ranked foes.
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 37.3 percent of the program's 102 SEC regular-season victories.
South Carolina is 102-197 (.341) 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 in program history.
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 24-7 record, including 11 wins away from home, the Gamecocks are 17th in the NCAA RPI released on March 18. South Carolina is one of five SEC schools rated among the top 20. Only Tennessee at seventh, Kentucky at eighth and Texas A&M at 10th rank ahead of the Gamecocks.