Dec. 29, 2017
#4/5 South Carolina vs #22/21 Texas A&M
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- No. 4/5 South Carolina jumps into SEC action right out of the holiday break, hosting No. 22/21 Texas A&M on Sun., Dec. 31, at 2 p.m. in Colonial Life Arena. The Gamecocks (11-1) and Aggies (11-3) boast the top two scorers in the SEC, respectively, and two of the top three rebounders in the league. South Carolina has won its SEC opener each of the last four seasons.
Parking in Lots A and B will be pass only, however, public handicap parking in those lots will be $10. Additional private and city lot parking is also $10. Shuttles from the Pendleton and Park Street garages will begin two hours prior to tip-off, and will be $3 roundtrip.
South Carolina Notables
The Gamecocks earned their 100th-straight appearance in the Associated Press Top 25 this week, giving them the fifth-longest active such streak in the nation. Prior to Staley's arrival, South Carolina had been ranked by the AP just 32 times in the 17 season's of the Gamecocks' SEC era.
Today's game features the SEC's top two scorers in South Carolina's A'ja Wilson (24.5 ppg) and Texas A&M's Chennedy Carter (20.1 ppg). With Wilson ranked third in the league in rebounding (10.8 rpg), two of the league's top three rebounders will take the floor today as well as the Aggies' Anriel Howard leads the SEC with 12.9 rebounds per game.
Senior forward A'ja Wilson broke school records for career free throws made and attempted in the Gamecocks' last game. With 484 career free throws made and 684 attempted, she is third among active NCAA Div. I players in both categories. Wilson's 160 free throws made in 2016-17 is the Gamecocks' single-season record.
Sophomore guard Tyasha Harris closed the Gamecocks' pre-holiday schedule with a rush, solving the riddle of balancing her own scoring against setting up her teammates. In the last five games, Harris averaged nearly a double-double with 10.8 points and 9.0 assists. All three of her career double-doubles came in the last five outings.
Any doubts about the strength of the Gamecocks' frontcourt outside of perennial All-American A'ja Wilson have been quickly dispelled as junior Alexis Jennings has brought a power game that complements Wilson's well. In her first season on the court for the Gamecocks, the Kentucky transfer is among the SEC's top 25 in scoring (24th, 12.4 ppg) and rebounding (14th, 7.5 rpg) and is 11th in the nation in field goal percentage at .635.
By the Numbers
4 Gamecocks averaging double-figure points this season -- Wilson (24.5), Spann (13.6), Jennings (12.4), Harris (10.1)
6 Consecutive games in which sophomore guard Tyasha Harris has handed out at least five assists, including three games of 10 or more
7 Consecutive double-figure scoring games by junior forward Alexis Jennings
Texas A&M Series Notes
After a win in College Station last season, the Gamecocks lead the series 4-3 with five of the seven games decided by single digits. South Carolina is 2-1 against Texas A&M in Columbia and has won the last four meetings between the teams. The Gamecocks' four-game win streak is book-ended by double-digit victories, including last season's 80-64 decision at Reed Arena (Feb. 23), which set the stage for South Carolina's fourth-straight SEC regular-season championship. After a tight first half, the Gamecocks posted a 19-6 third quarter behind a defensive effort that yielded just 21.4 percent shooting.
Drive for Five
The Gamecocks enter the 2017-18 season as the four-time reigning SEC regular-season champion, becoming just the second program to win four straight titles. South Carolina joined Tennessee, which claimed its fourth straight in 2001 en route to the league-record seven consecutive titles (1999-2004).
Under head coach Dawn Staley, South Carolina is 52-46 against nationally ranked opponents, although that record is skewed by the early seasons of her tenure as the Gamecocks are 37-7 versus ranked foes since the start of the 2014-15 campaign. South Carolina is 17-5 against top-10 opponents during that time. Staley's Gamecocks are 19-18 against ranked opponents in Colonial Life Arena after winning 15 of the last 16 such contests dating back to the start of 2013-14.
Head coach Dawn Staley has built the Gamecocks into a consistent SEC contender with four straight regular-season titles, shirking decades of difficulty in the nation's best women's basketball conference. Launching her 10th SEC season at the helm, Staley boasts a 97-45 (.683) conference regular-season record and has finished outside the league's top five just twice -- an unprecedented achievement for a program that had finished INSIDE the top five only two times in the previous 17 seasons. Staley's 97 wins include six seasons of double-digit league victories -- 10 in 2012; 11 in 2013; an SEC-best 14 in 2014, 15 in 2015 and 16 in 2016; and 14 in 2017 -- and account for 60.2 percent of the program's all-time 161 league wins. Staley's SEC regular-season record includes a 53-19 (.736) mark at home and a 44-26 (.629) slate on the road.
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