Date: Friday, November 5, 2010 Time: 7 p.m. Location: Columbia, S.C. Arena: Colonial Life Arena Lander Series: SC leads 2-0 Radio: None Television: None Livestats:Gamecocksonline.com Tickets: Admission is free
South Carolina Notables
This is the Gamecocks' 36th season as a varsity sport.
The Gamecocks are 2-0 in exhibition games under head coach Dawn Staley after defeating Augusta State 94-38 last season.
South Carolina was 7-5 at Colonial Life Arena last season.
SEC coaches picked the Gamecocks to finish seventh in their annual preseason poll, matching the media's preseason selection. South Carolina closed out the 2009-10 campaign tied for seventh with a 7-9 league record.
South Carolina opens the regular season with a trio of home games, beginning Fri., Nov. 12, at 6:30 p.m. against No. 5/6 Xavier.
The Gamecocks play their first road game of the season on Sun., Nov. 21, at Penn State, which was the opponent for South Carolina's first home game of the 2009-10 season.
Lander enters the 2010-11 season returning every player from last year's team, which finished 27-4, reached the NCAA Sweet 16 and won the Peach Belt Conference regular-season title. After closing the season ranked as the No. 7 NCAA Division II team in the nation, the Lady Bearcats hold the No. 4 spot in the USA Today/ESPN preseason coaches' poll.
Among the Lady Bearcats' key returners is WBCA Honorable Mention All-America Shannon McKever. The senior center averaged 14.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game in 2009-10. Junior guard Ciara Lyons was close behind in the scoring column, netting 11.1 points per game while shooting 37.7 percent from 3-point range.
As a team, Lander averaged 81.7 points on 45.2 percent field goal shooting, including 34.6 percent from 3-point range. The Lady Bearcats out-rebounded their opponents by 2.5 boards per game and allowed their foes to score just 66.2 points per contest.
The Same, But Different
South Carolina's roster is full of familiar faces with nine returning letterwinners, but observers may feel like they are watching an entirely different team. Head coach Dawn Staley returns four starters from last season's 14-15 squad, but the one departure led the stellar strategist to rethink her team's approach to the season. Without a traditional, sit-on-the-block post player in the lineup, the Gamecocks will use their speed and athleticism to battle opponents. Staley worries less about the missing 31.0 points per game she will miss with the loss of transfer Kelsey Bone and the injured Valerie Nainima than she does about her team's ability to rebound with just three players that hover around the 6-foot-tall mark.
Three newcomers show up on the Gamecock roster this season, headlined by freshman forward Kayla Brewer, a three-time all-state selection from Jacksonville, Fla. Junior college transfer Markeshia Grant, a third-team NJCAA All-American at the College of Central Florida, and walk-on sophomore Imani Sellers will bolster the guard-heavy roster.
Not new to the roster, but new to the game floor is junior Marah Strickland. After sitting out the 2009-10 season per NCAA transfer rules, Strickland earned a spot on the Preseason All-SEC Second Team as voted by the league's coaches. Her reputation as an icy cool long-range shooter will help fill the void left by Nainima's injury.
Strength of Schedule
While the first RPI and Strength of Schedule rankings have not yet come out, rest assured the Gamecocks will figure high in the standings. With 20 of 29 games this season coming against teams that participated in the 2010 postseason, South Carolina has its work cut out for it right from the opening tipoff. Six Gamecock opponents (nine games) advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16. Fortunately for the Gamecocks, five of those games will be played at Colonial Life Arena.
Seven of the Gamecocks opponents earned spots in the preseason top 25 (AP/ESPN) - Stanford (3/T-2), Tennessee (4/4), Xavier (5/6), Kentucky (9/10), North Carolina (15/18), Georgia (19/19) and Vanderbilt (24/21).
Gamecocks on TV
South Carolina will play 13 games on television this season, including a Feb. 6 appearance on ESPNU at Arkansas. The Gamecocks will play four non-conference games on Fox Sports Carolinas (Nov. 12, Nov. 18, Dec. 5, Dec. 12); and Fox Sports South, Fox Sports Southwest and Sun Sports will air four Gamecock home SEC contests (Jan. 6, Jan. 20, Feb. 20, Fb. 27). One league road game will air on the SEC Network (Jan. 23), and one will air on Charter Sports Southeast (Feb. 17). The Big Ten Network will broadcast South Carolina's game at Penn State on Nov. 21.
Looking back at the 2009-10 campaign, here are a few key points to set the stage for the 2010-11 campaign:
South Carolina had three wins over nationally ranked teams for the first time since the 2002-03 season, during which the Gamecocks were also ranked for most of the campaign.
South Carolina was most productive when it was the most aggressive, posting an 11-4 record when scoring more points off turnovers than their opponents.
Two players earned second-team All-SEC honors from the league's coaches, including current senior Valerie Nainima, making it the first time a pair of Gamecock teammates shared all-league honors since 2001-02.
La'Keisha Sutton led the team with 3.1 assists per SEC game and was the third-leading scorer in league games at 9.0 ppg.