March 1, 2003
Still in the hunt for the fourth spot in the SEC standings, South Carolina enters a must-have game Sunday at Mississippi. Game time is 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
Tied for fifth place (with Vanderbilt) one game out of fourth place, the #16/13 Gamecocks need a win against the Rebels and a Mississippi State loss at Auburn to move into a tie for fourth place. USC owns tie-breaker advantages over both MSU and Vanderbilt.
Adding more pressure to the situation Sunday is the uncertain status of senior co-captain Jocelyn Penn. After tying the SEC’s career steals record Thursday night versus Kentucky, Penn suffered an ankle sprain on a breakaway layup and was taken to the locker room missing the last six minutes of the game. She has never missed a contest in her 113-game career but is questionable for today.
The Gamecocks have three players averaging in double figures with Naismith candidate Jocelyn Penn leading the way with an average of 24.9 points per contest. Penn is second in the SEC and fourth in the country in scoring, after leading both for the first half of the season. Penn is first in the SEC in steals, offensive rebounds and is also tied for first in the SEC in field goal percentage with Vanderbilt’s Chantelle Anderson. Penn and Anderson both connect on 62.7% of their field goal attempts even though Penn has attempted 405 shots to Anderson’s 276. That 62.7% also includes Penn’s 31 three-point attempts (of which she has hit 11; 35.5%) while Anderson has not attempted a shot from behind the arc. Excluding her 31 three-point attempts and 11 three-pointers made, Penn would be connecting on 65% of her field goal attempts (243-374).
With her eight steals Thursday night, Penn now has 103 on the season, which is a career high. The Gamecock record for thefts in a season is 126, set by Katrina Anderson in the 1978-79 season. The SEC’s leader in steals this season, Penn needs only one steal to become the SEC’s all-time career leader in thefts (351).
Junior Cristina Ciocan is second on the team at 13.0 points per game and leads the team in assists (second in the SEC). Ciocan is only 14 dishes away from breaking her season high of 185 assists last year as a sophomore, which was the third highest total in USC history. The Gamecock record for assists during a season is 219, which was set by Mindy Ballou in the 1983-84 season.
Senior Petra Ujhelyi is third on the team in scoring at 11.5 points per game and leads the team, and the SEC, in rebounding at 9.4 boards per game. Ujhelyi currently has 169 defensive rebounds and is closing in on Marsha Williams’ school record of 182 defensive boards (1991-92).
South Carolina comes into Sunday’s contest on a three-game winning streak. On Thursday night, USC closed the book on the 2002-03 home schedule with a convincing 97-51 victory over Kentucky. The 46-point margin of victory was the largest in the Gamecocks’ 12-year SEC history and earned USC its second consecutive 20-game season which is a first in the team’s 12 years in the SEC.