Date: Saturday, March 24, 20012 Time: 11:30 p.m. (ET) Location: Fresno, Calif. Arena: The Save Mart Center (15,596) TV: ESPN2 (Dave Pasch, play-by-play; Debbie Antonelli, analyst; Heather Cox, reporter) Radio107.5 The Game and WISW 1320 AM (Brad Muller and Marcy Girton); GamecocksOnline.com Live Stats:GamecocksOnline.com Stanford Series: Stanford leads 3-0; At Neutral Site: Never Met; In Columbia: Stanford leads 1-0; In Palo Alto: Stanford leads 2-0
South Carolina is making its ninth NCAA Tournament appearance, but its first since 2003. The Gamecocks have a 10-8 all-time record at the event and have advanced as far as the Elite Eight (2002). This is the program's third Sweet 16 appearance, the most recent coming in 2002.
Through the first weekend of NCAA Tournament action, the Gamecocks are among the event's top 10 in eight statistical categories - third in field goal percentage (.513), fourth in scoring margin (+21.5), sixth in field goal percentage defense (.328), seventh in offense (76.0 ppg) and steals (11.0), eighth in defense (54.5 ppg) and 10th in both assists (16.5) and turnover margin (+4.0). While the defensive numbers were not a surprise for a team ranked fourth in the nation in opponent points per game, the offensive numbers were somewhat unexpected for a team currently ranked only 179th in the nation in points per game and 116th in field goal percentage this season.
The Gamecocks' 25 wins this season are tied for the most since South Carolina joined the Southeastern Conference for the 1991-92 season. The 2001-02 squad also won 25 games en route to its Elite Eight berth. This season's 10 SEC wins tied that team's effort for the most in school history.
South Carolina advanced to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament for the first time in program history.
The Gamecocks have defeated six nationally ranked opponents this season, including four wins over top-20 foes. It is the most wins over ranked foes since seven lost to the 2001-02 Gamecocks, a team that was also ranked for all but the first two weeks of the season.
Six of South Carolina's nine losses have been by fewer than 10 points. The Gamecocks have lost their games this season by an average of 7.9 points, compared to their 17.2 point average margin of victory.
The Gamecocks have held a team below its scoring average 33 times this season, holding a team at least 10 points under that mark 21 times, including 10 of 16 SEC games. Only seven games have seen an opponent score 60 or more points.
Three Gamecocks - guards Markeshia Grant, La'Keisha Sutton and Ieasia Walker - earned spots on the All-SEC Second Team, the most in program history. Sutton became the first Gamecock named to the league's All-Defensive Team.
A South Carolina Win Would...
Put the Gamecocks in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight for the second time in school history (2002).
Be head coach Dawn Staley's first win over her former USA Basketball head coach Tara VanDerveer.
Be the Gamecocks' 26 of the season, the most for the program since the 1979-80 squad won a school-record 30 games en route to the AIAW Final Four.
By the Numbers
2 Gamecocks that stand over six-feet tall - Elem Ibiam (6-3) and Pamela Decheva (6-1)
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)
3 Gamecocks on the All-SEC Second Team, the most recognized by the league coaches in program history
4 Times this season that forward Aleighsa Welch pulled down six offensive rebounds, the fourth-most by a freshman in school history
5 Games scoring in double figures for junior forward Ashley Bruner out of the last seven outings
7 3-pointers by senior guard Markeshia Grant at Tennessee (Feb. 2), which is tied for the most in the SEC this season
7.9 Margin of defeat in the Gamecocks' nine losses this season, including five games decided by five or fewer points
8 Wins in a row by the Gamecocks (Dec. 11-Jan. 8), the longest win streak of the Staley era and the longest for the program since 2003-04
8.7 Points per game from freshman guard Tina Roy in three games at the SEC Tournament, after entering the event averaging 4.1 points
9 Games this season that junior guard Ieasia Walker has handed out five or more assists, during which the Gamecocks are 7-2
11 Games this season decided by five or fewer points, during which South Carolina is 6-5, including a 4-3 mark in SEC action
15 Games in which freshman Aleighsa Welch has led the team in rebounding, during which the Gamecocks are 13-2
16 Rank of senior guard La'Keisha Sutton on the Gamecocks' career points list (1,281)
18 Games in which South Carolina has allowed under 20.0 percent shooting from 3-point range, including six games of not allowing a single made 3-pointer
19 Rank of senior forward Charenee Stephens on the Gamecocks' career rebounds list (596)
23 Games this season in which the Gamecock defense held its opponent to 55 or fewer points, during which South Carolina is 19-4
27 Games in which South Carolina has led at halftime, during which the Gamecocks were 24-3
67 Games won by this year's senior class (assumes four-year careers), making it the most since the 2004 class captured 69
76.0 Points per game scored by the Gamecocks in NCAA Tournament action after entering the event netting just 60.3 points per game
Stanford Series Notes
The Cardinal lead the series 3-0 with two of the games played in Palo Alto, Calif. The most recent meeting on Nov. 26, 2010, resulted in a 70-32 victory for then-No. 3 Stanford on its home floor. The two teams opened a home-and home contract in 2006-07 with the Gamecocks traveling to Palo Alto on Jan. 8, 2007. The Cardinal, ranked No. 10 at the time, collected a 69-54 victory on its home court. Two years later, then-No. 3 Stanford arrived in Columbia and posted a 78-47 win over the Gamecocks in head coach Dawn Staley's first matchup against her former USA Basketball head coach.
South Carolina senior guard La'Keisha Sutton has played in two games against Stanford, averaging 9.0 points and 3.5 rebounds against the Cardinal. Junior guard Ieasia Walker was the team's top scorer in last season's matchup with Stanford, posting eight points, while junior forward Ashley Bruner led the way with seven rebounds, including six offensive.
The South Carolina and Stanford coaching staffs are far more familiar with each other than the two games they have played in the last four seasons. South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley played in her first Olympic games under Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer (1996). Staley, along with Gamecock assistant coach Nikki McCray, were part of the U.S. National Team that spent the 1995-96 season in residency for the first time in USA Basketball history. The group went 60-0 in international competition and helped spark two professional women's basketball leagues in the United States. The 1996 Olympic team, in addition to Staley as an individual, is on the nominee finalist list for the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame this year.
South Carolina is in the midst of its best season in a decade, reaching the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 for the first time since 2001-02 and making the program's first appearance in the SEC Tournament semifinals earlier this month. The team's 25 victories are tied for the most during the program's time in the SEC, matching that of the 2001-02 team, which advanced to the Elite Eight.
The Gamecocks found success behind a steady dose of stifling defense, ranked fourth in the nation, and a diversified offense. South Carolina has allowed more than 55 points just 11 times this season and have held five nationally ranked opponents to that mark or lower. Seven different players have led the team in scoring, and eight have scored in double figures at least once. South Carolina's 14-2 start earned the program's first national rank since the end of the 2002-03 season, and the Gamecocks have been ranked a total of five weeks this season. The Gamecocks had the most SEC wins since the 2001-02 team also had 10. Signature league wins included the program's first sweeps of Vanderbilt and Florida and its first win over Tennessee in Knoxville.
NCAA Tournament Tidbits
South Carolina is in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 for the third time in its nine appearances in the postseason event. Noted for their defensive prowess throughout the season, it was the Gamecocks' offense that wowed opponents through the first two rounds, posting 76.0 points per game last weekend after entering the event scoring 60.3 points per game on the season. The team's 80 points against Eastern Michigan were the program's highest output since Jan. 10, 2010, at Alabama. South Carolina shot 51.3 percent from the field over the two wins over Eastern Michigan and #13/15 Purdue. The Gamecock defense was just as present in the two outings, holding the nation's second-highest scorer, Tavelyn James of EMU, to just 11 points, less than half her 24.2 season average. Against Purdue, South Carolina locked down Courtney Moses, who lit up South Dakota State for nine 3s two nights earlier, allowing her to take just two shots from beyond the arc, neither of which she made. The Gamecocks forced a combined 37 turnovers in the two outings, turning them into 43 of their 152 total points.