Date: Friday, November 11, 2011 Time: 4:30 p.m. (ET) Location: Champaign, Ill. Arena: Assembly Hall (16,618) TV: None Radio: WISW 1320 AM (Brad Muller); GamecocksOnline.com Live Stats:GamecocksOnline.com Illinois Series: Tied 1-1; In Champaign: First Meeting; In Columbia: SC leads 1-0; Neutral Site: IL leads 1-0
South Carolina Notables
The 2011-12 season is the fourth at the helm for South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley. Her teams have improved by four wins each of the last two campaigns, capped by last season's 18-15 mark.
In preseason voting, South Carolina was picked by the SEC coaches to finish seventh in the league, while the media voted the Gamecocks eighth. The league coaches also tabbed South Carolina senior La'Keisha Sutton and junior Ieasia Walker as preseason second-team all-conference selections.
This is the third time the Gamecocks have played their season opener on the road in head coach Dawn Staley's tenure in Columbia. South Carolina split Staley's first two season openers outside of Columbia.
A South Carolina Win Would...
Be the second in a season opener in head coach Dawn Staley's four-year tenure. both of which would have been on the road.
Give the Gamecocks a 26-12 all-time record in season openers.
Be Staley's second career win over Illinois, keeping her undefeated against the Illini.
By the Numbers 2 Gamecocks that stand over six-feet tall - Elem Ibiam (6-3) and Pamela Decheva (6-1) 3 Number of times in head coach Dawn Staley's four years at the helm that the Gamecocks have opened the season on the road 5 Newcomers that will take the court for the Gamecocks this season 8 Letterwinners that the Gamecocks returned from last season's Women's NIT second round team 63.1 Percent of last season's rebounding that has returned for 2011-12 74.5 Percent of last season's scoring that is back on the court for the Gamecocks in 2011-12 81.4 Percent of last season's assists that are back in 2011-12
The Gamecocks prepared for today's season opener with an 84-53 victory over Limestone in exhibition play last Friday night. Four Gamecocks netted double figures, led by senior Markeshia Grant's perfect shooting night - 6-of-6 overall, 4-of-4 from 3-point range. She added four assists to her 16 points, while junior Ashley Bruner scored 12 points and senior La'Keisha Sutton and freshman Aleighsa Welch each added 10 points. The Gamecocks shot 47.8 percent from the field and handed out 16 assists while swiping 17 steals.
The Illinois Series
The series is tied 1-1 following last season's 61-48 South Carolina victory over Illinois on Nov. 15 in Columbia. The Illini actually out-shot the Gamecocks in that outing 41.7 percent to 37.3 percent, but South Carolina held an 11-rebound edge to muscle out the victory. Ashley Bruner turned in her first double-double of the season with 11 points and 12 rebounds in the contest. Ieasia Walker added 12 points, five assists and four steals to the victory as well.
Illinois claimed the first meeting between the two programs with a 91-58 decision at the Florida International Thanksgiving Classic on Nov. 23, 2007.
Illinois returns all but one letterwinner from last season's 9-23 team and added five talented newcomers to the 2011-12 roster. The Illini finished their season strong with a semifinal finish in the Big Ten Tournament. Illinois is still somewhat young this season with nine of the Illini's roster of 15 are sophomores or freshmen. The group gained valuable experience last season, however, as three were among the Big Ten's top six freshman scorers. Helping to lead that group of young players this season will be junior Karisma Penn, who led the team with 17.5 points per game and a school-record 78 blocks en route to Second-Team All-Big Ten honors in 2010-11. She shot 51.4 percent from the field and snatched a team-best 62 steals as well.
Illinois head coach Jolette Law is in her fifth season, leading the Illini to a 58-74 record.
South Carolina has a 179-230 (.438) all-time record on the road. The Gamecocks' best season on the road was 1979-80 when they went 11-4. Under head coach Dawn Staley, South Carolina is 10-21 in road games. In her 11th season as a head coach, Staley has a 72-67 road record.
The Gamecocks are 69-38 (.642) all-time in the month of November, including a 34-9 (.791) record at home. Under head coach Dawn Staley, South Carolina is 8-9 in the first month of basketball season. The Gamecocks went 3-2 in Staley's first year at the helm (2008-09), were 3-3 in 2009-10 and posted a 2-4 mark last season.
Strength of Schedule
After finishing the 2010-11 campaign with the nation's 19th-toughest schedule, the Gamecocks are facing another challenging slate in 2011-12. With both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches preseason polls released this week, South Carolina will play seven games against nationally ranked teams. Another five games will be against teams that also received votes in one or both polls.
Seventeen of the Gamecocks' 29 games this season will be against teams that participated in the 2011 postseason, including nine who were in the NCAA Tournament. Of the 24 opponents on the schedule, eight finished the 2010-11 season with an RPI in the top 50. Six others closed with an RPI between 51 and 100.