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March 4, 2003

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Two familiar foes face off Thursday night in the first round of the 2003 SEC Tournament. Game time is 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

South Carolina and Mississippi just battled in Oxford, Mississippi, on Sunday afternoon with the 16th-ranked Gamecocks ruining the Rebel’s Senior Day festivities with a 91-68 victory.

Five Gamecocks scored in double figures as Cristina Ciocan paced all scorers with a career-tying 23 points, nine assists and four steals on the day. Kelly Morrone added a season-high 19 points and five steals while Petra Ujhelyi contributed 18 points, six boards, four assists, two blocks and four steals. Freshmen Olga Gritsaeva made her first career start and scored 10 points while fellow first-year player Sarah Burgess added a personal-high of 15 points.

The status of South Carolina’s leading scorer, Jocelyn Penn, is uncertain as the senior co-captain is still battling a sprained ankle suffered in the February 27 game vs. Kentucky. She was not able to play at Oxford and missed her first game in 113 contests. Penn is tied with Niesa Johnson (Alabama) for the all-time SEC career steals title at 350 and will set a new conference record when she is able to return to the court. The Naismith candidate has recorded at least one steal in 103 of 113 games during her career.

With Sunday’s victory, South Carolina recorded its first Oxford win under Head Coach Walvius and closed in on the series record (Ole Miss leads 10-7). The Rebels ended USC’s 2000-01 season at the SEC Tournament when the 6th seed Gamecocks suffered a shocking 75-68 loss to 11th seed Ole Miss. The Gamecocks also lost to the Rebels in the first round of the 1993 SEC Tournament.

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 field goal percentage.

Junior Cristina Ciocan is second on the team at 13.4 points per game and leads the team in assists (second in the SEC). Senior Petra Ujhelyi is third on the team in scoring at 11.7 points per game and leads the team, and the SEC, in rebounding at 9.3 boards per game.

South Carolina comes into Thursday’s game on a four-game winning streak and has captured eight of the last 12 outings. Ole Miss has lost 13 of its last 14 games. The Rebel scoring and rebounding is led by sophomore Amber Watts at 13.0 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.

The winner of Thursday’s first-round game moves on to face fourth-seed Mississippi State in Friday’s SEC Tournament quarterfinals.