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Dec. 19, 2002

For the third consecutive year, the two “Carolina’s” battle in the Beach Ball Classic Friday night in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Game time is 9:00 p.m.

In the previous match-ups, the Gamecocks and Tar Heels have split the two games with USC winning last year, 85-53, and North Carolina winning in 2000, 74-68. Overall, South Carolina leads the series by a 6-5 margin. South Carolina is 1-0 against Top 25 teams this season after going 7-2 last year. North Carolina lost to #22 Oklahoma earlier in November in their only game against a ranked team.

On an 8-0 streak since opening the season on November 22nd with a victory over Clemson, 18th-ranked USC already holds the best season opening record, under Head Coach Susan Walvius, and could tie the 1988-89 squad’s 9-0 start with a victory tonight. The South Carolina record for the best start to a season is 10 wins from the 1981-82 season.

South Carolina is led by Naismith candidate Jocelyn Penn who earned SEC Player of the Week honors last week (12/9) after tying the USC scoring record of 50 points against Wofford. Penn averages 28.0 points per game and is second in the nation (and SEC) in scoring. She has four double-doubles in eight contests and is also averaging 8.5 boards and 5.0 steals per game. With 287 career steals, she is only 12 away from becoming the all-time South Carolina leader in thefts.

Junior Cristina Ciocan is second on the team in scoring with 13.4 points per game. The Gamecock point guard also leads the team in assists with an average of 7.8 per game. She is second in the SEC in assists and has two double-assist games already this season. Last year, Ciocan missed the USC-UNC battle as she was out with mononucleosis.

North Carolina enters tonight’s game with a 13th-place ranking in both polls. The Tar Heels are 7-1 on the season with their only defeat coming at the hands of #22 Oklahoma on November 30th in the Rainbow Wahine Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Tar Heels are led by South Carolina-native La’Tangela Atkinson’s 12.8 points per game and junior Candace Sutton’s 12.5 points per contest. Atkinson, a freshman from Bishopville, also paces the UNC efforts on the backboards with an average of 7.9 boards per game.