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March 7, 2003

The 16/13th ranked South Carolina Gamecocks look for their fifth consecutive victory tonight and a pass to the Semi-Finals as the fifth-seed USC squad faces the fourth-seed Mississippi State Bulldogs (ranked 11th in the country).

Tonight’s game features two finalists for the Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year Award and two of the game’s top scorers; USC’s Jocelyn Penn and MSU’s LaToya Thomas.

Penn, who is fourth in the country in scoring at 24.4 ppg, was an unanimous first-team All SEC pick and leads the Gamecocks in scoring and steals. Last night, Penn become the SEC record holder in career steals with her 351 theft. The Conyers, Georgia-native leads the conference in steals, offensive rebounds and field goal percentage. She is second in scoring.

LaToya Thomas, the SEC Player of the Year, is averaging 25.6 points and 8.5 boards to lead the Bulldogs. Thomas is third in the country in scoring and first in the SEC.

USC (22-6, 9-5) reached tonight’s quarterfinal contest by defeating another Magnolia State opponent Thursday night, 79-64. USC is 3-0 this year against teams from Mississippi (2-0 vs. Ole Miss & 1-0 vs. MSU). With their fourth-place finish in the conference, Mississippi State earned the fourth seed and the first-round bye.

South Carolina is 4-5 this season when facing a Top 25 opponent but the Gamecocks are 14-2 when Jocelyn Penn records 20 or more points.

LAST TIME WE MET Tonight’s SEC Tournament quarterfinal contest matches up two teams who opened the 2003 SEC season against each other on Jan. 9th. In the largest SEC comeback by a USC team, the Gamecocks battled back from 18 down to defeat the Bulldogs, 83-79.

All five South Carolina starters scored in double figures in the game with Jocelyn Penn tops at 24 points. Petra Ujhelyi recorded her seventh double-double of the season (15 points and 11 rebounds).

FIRST-ROUND ACTION The South Carolina Gamecocks advanced to the second round of the SEC Tournament Thursday night with a 79-64 victory over Mississippi. It is the second SEC Tournament win for the Gamecocks in its 12 years in the conference and pits 16th-ranked USC up against Mississippi State Friday night at 6:00 p.m. CT.

Four Gamecocks scored in double figures in the first round contest with freshman Sarah Burgess leading the way with a career-high 23 points. Burgess tied the SEC Tournament record for 3FGs as she connected on seven-of-10 three-point attempts in the game. Senior Petra Ujhelyi contributed 16 points and 13 rebounds for her SEC-high 11th double-double. Jocelyn Penn chipped in 13 and eight boards while Cristina Ciocan added 12 and 10 assists.

NOTES: In Jocelyn Penn’s career, she has recorded 1,883 points (fourth in Gamecock record books), 777 boards (10th in USC history) and 352 steals (1st)….Petra Ujhelyi needs only 41 points to become the 25th member of the South Carolina 1,000 Point Club…Ujhelyi is now tied with Marsha Williams (1991-92) for the school record in defensive rebounds; 182…With her 10 assists Thursday night vs. Ole Miss, Cristina Ciocan now has 191 on the season to set a personal high for the junior (previous high-185; 2001-02)… The junior point guard now needs only 19 dishes to set a South Carolina single-season assist record (219, Mindy Ballou; 1983-84)…The Gamecocks have earned double-digit victories in 17 of its 22 wins this season (19-of-25 games last season)…USC has hit at least one three-point shot in 58 consecutive games this year…USC is 4-5 against Top 25 teams this season