Nov. 12, 2017
#4/2 South Carolina at #15/13 Maryland
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Reigning National Champion South Carolina faces its first road test of the season, traveling to No. 15/13 Maryland for a Monday night matchup on ESPN2. It marks the first of nine games against ranked opponents for the No. 4/2 Gamecocks this season, and is South Carolina’s first visit to College Park.
South Carolina Notables
South Carolina begins its 44th season of women’s basketball tonight and its 10th under the tutelage of head coach Dawn Staley. The reigning national champion Gamecocks have won four straight SEC regular-season titles, three consecutive SEC Tournament crowns and played in five of the last six NCAA Sweet 16s.
By the Numbers
2 Returning Gamecock starters this season, both of whom were preseason All-SEC selections
The Maryland Series
The Gamecocks and Terrapins have met just once before in women’s basketball, back in December 1997 at the Saint Peter’s Invitational in Jersey City, N.J. The Terrapins collected a 74-60 win.
Scouting the Terrapins
Like the Gamecocks, Maryland cruised in its season opener with a 91-58 win over Albany. Five Terrapins scored in double figures with Stephanie Jones and Brianna Fraser posting double-doubles in the contest. Maryland is coming off a 32-3 season that included a Sweet 16 appearance and Big Ten regular-season and tournament championships. Like the Gamecocks, the Terrapins return just two starters from that squad among their seven returning letterwinners.
With three freshman and five newcomers on the court this season, Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks are a work in progress that is set to be tested early. In the season opener, Staley found much of what she had expected and hoped for. Senior forward A’ja Wilson put together an efficient double-double (16 pts/10 rebs in 14 mins), and sophomore point guard Tyasha Harris lifted her scoring while still serving as the team’s primary distributor (9 pts/4 rebs). Junior Doniyah Cliney elevated her contributions as part of the staring line (15 pts/5 stls), and sophomore Mikiah Herbert Harrigan was efficient offensively (team-high 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting). From the newcomers, transfer Alexis Jennings helped the rebounding effort (9 rebs in 15 mins), and senior transfer Lindsey Spann delivered from long range (16 pts, 3-of-5 from 3-pt range). The trio of freshmen all contributed and got their first-game jitters out. Guard Bianca Jackson’s eight point led their offensive effort, while forwards LeLe Grissett and LaDazhia Williams each battled for five rebounds.
The Gamecocks are 238-248 all-time in true road games, including a 66-37 (.641) mark under head coach Dawn Staley. In SEC action, Staley is 43-26 (.623) through her first nine seasons at South Carolina.
Under head coach Dawn Staley, South Carolina is 50-45 against nationally ranked opponents, although that record is skewed by the early seasons of her tenure as the Gamecocks are 34-6 versus ranked foes since the start of the 2014-15 campaign. South Carolina is 17-4 against top-10 opponents during that time. Staley’s Gamecocks are 16-14 against ranked opponents on their home courts after winning seven the last eight road games against ranked foes and 12 of the last 17 such contests dating back to the start of 2013-14.
South Carolina senior forward A’ja Wilson has had national attention since she before she joined the rising Gamecock program. Now in her final year of college, the three-time All-American and two-time SEC Player of the Year is looking to make the next step. Open about her desire to be named the national player of the year, Wilson starts the season with that preseason title from espnW, which also rated her the No. 1 player in the country for the second-straight season. The Preseason SEC Player of the Year as well, Wilson is the league’s leading returning rebounder (814) and shot blocker (261). With a chance to become just the third Gamecock to reach 2,000 career points, she has scored in double figures in 91 of her career 106 games and been the team’s top scorer in 51 of them. Wilson averages 15.6 points and 7.7 rebounds for her career and shines brightest when the stage is the biggest. In 41 career games against nationally ranked opponents, the versatile forward’s averages rose to 16.5 points and 8.3 rebounds.
Bringing the Boards
While head coach Dawn Staley knows no single player on this season’s roster will replace the double-double average of 2017 senior center Alaina Coates, she is confident the collection of forwards she has can do the job. At the head of that group is junior transfer Alexis Jennings, who has shown early power on the glass and physical play in the lane. She will have to knock off the rust of sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, Jennings got off to a good start with nine boards in just 15 minutes in the season opener.
Land of the Three
Senior transfer Lindsey Spann brings solid experience and leadership to the Gamecocks’ young roster, but the biggest impact the 1,000-point scorer from Penn State will have will likely be from 3-point range. Claiming eighth place on the Lady Lions’ career made 3s list, the 5-foot-6 guard is off to a quick start from long range in Columbia as well, hitting 3-of-5 from beyond the arc in the season opener on her way to 16 points in 22 minutes.
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