South Carolina holds a 24-11 record in season openers, but is just 8-8 when playing its first game on the road. The Gamecocks opened the 2008-09 season with a 56-42 loss at Penn State in their first road season opener since 2004-05. South Carolina's last victory in a road season opener as a 78-51 decision at Florida A&M on Nov. 13, 1998. South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley is 7-2 in season openers in her coaching career. Prior to last season, her lone season-opening loss was a 76-70 defeat at the hands of Evansville on Nov. 9, 2001.
South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley returns to a city she knows well after playing eight seasons for the WNBA's Charlotte Sting. During her time in the Queen City, Staley was selected to play in three All-Star games (2001, 2002, 2003), was named to the WNBA's All-Decade Team and earned the WNBA Entrepreneurial Spirit Award (1999) and the WNBA Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award (1999).
South Carolina won its lone exhibition game of the 2009-10 season, claiming a 94-38 decision over Augusta State last Wednesday night. The Gamecocks had their inside-outside game on full display as junior guard Valerie Nainima and freshman center Kelsey Bone each netted 18 points, while Bone picked up 13 rebounds. Sophomore forward Charenee Stephens and sophomore guard La'Keisha Sutton also scored in double figures for the Gamecocks, posting 17 and 11 points, respectively. Nainima added a game-high seven assists to her 6-of-12 3-point accuracy.
Six letterwinners return for their second season under head coach Dawn Staley, and their coach likes the makeup of the group. The returning players, who accounted for 51.5 percent of last season's points and 43.1 percent of the 2008-09 rebounds, arrived in excellent shape to go along with the mental toughness bred of the extended minutes they were forced to play last season. That invaluable experience will be enhanced by the new players Staley brought into the program, as veterans will be able to return to roles in which they can thrive.
Staley made her first season of recruiting a productive one, nabbing the fourth-best class in the nation. Headlining that class is the first tandem of Parade All-Americans in the program's history - Kelsey Bone and Ieasia Walker. Inking such a prestigious group was crucial to getting the Gamecocks on track toward Staley's lofty goals.
Strength of Schedule
Staley stuck to her philosophy of challenging her teams in November and December as a building block for success in January and beyond. The Gamecocks will face as many as 22 games against teams that participated in the 2009 postseason, including seven non-conference outings. To set the stage for 11 games against SEC teams that played in the 2009 NCAA Tournament, Staley has her Gamecocks opening at NCAA Tournament participant Charlotte and does not let up. South Carolina will face Final Four participant Oklahoma and NCAA Tournament veterans Notre Dame and San Diego State at the Paradise Jam. The non-conference slate also includes a neutral-site matchup against border rival and perennial top-25 presence North Carolina in December. In all this season, South Carolina will face off with seven teams that are in the preseason top 25 (listed as AP/ESPN) - Notre Dame (4/7), North Carolina (5/5), Tennessee (8/9), LSU (9/17), Oklahoma (13/8), Georgia (21/-), Vanderbilt (22/20).
Gamecocks on TV
South Carolina will play at least 12 games on television in 2009-10, including a pair of SEC contests on the ESPN family of networks. The Gamecocks' first four home games will air on SportSouth. Two SEC games will air on FSN (games air on FOX Sports Carolinas, FOX Sports South, FOX Sports Tennessee, FOX Sports Houston, FOX Sports Southwest and Sun Sports), one on CSS, one on Sun Sports and another one on the SEC Network. Additionally, FSN and the ESPN family of networks are teaming to broadcast every game of the SEC Tournament in Duluth, Ga.