March 21, 2003
GAME: No. 12 Chattanooga (26-4) vs. No. 5 South Carolina (22-7).
REGIONAL: Mideast, first round.
TIME: Sunday, 12:10 p.m. EST.
SITE: The Bryce Jordan Center; University Park, Pa.
Chattanooga opens play in the NCAA tournament on Penn State’s home court for the second straight year. At least this time the Lady Mocs aren’t opening against the Lady Lions.
Chattanooga will try again for its first win in the tournament as it faces South Carolina in the first round.
“It’s an exciting time and we were anxious to play whoever,” Lady Mocs coach Wes Moore said. “I’m a little disappointed to be going back to Penn State because we played there last year. It’s a little better this year because it’s a neutral site.”
Chattanooga, which lost 82-67 to Penn State in the first round last year, is winless in four trips to the NCAA tournament.
The Lady Mocs come into the tournament riding a nine-game winning streak, including a run to their third consecutive Southern Conference tournament title.
Chattanooga is balanced on offense, though no scorers average double digits. However five players average between 7.9 and 9.9 points per game.
The Lady Mocs will be facing a South Carolina squad making its second straight trip to the NCAA tournament since ending a 10-year absence last year. The Gamecocks reached the regional finals for the first time last year, but lost to Duke.
“It is very exciting for the team to return to the NCAA tournament this year after advancing to the Elite Eight last season,” South Carolina assistant coach Linda Hill-MacDonald said.
“This year will be a little different for our team in that we were here last year. With the exception of three players, our team all experienced the excitement of receiving a bid for the NCAA tournament last year and learned from that experience.”
After finishing tied for fifth in the Southeastern Conference during the regular season, South Carolina lost to Mississippi State in the second round of the league tournament.
All-America forward Jocelyn Penn is averaging 24.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game for the Gamecocks. She is shooting a stellar 62.9 percent from the floor and has 106 steals.
The Lady Mocs and Gamecocks are meeting for the first time, but did have four common opponents this season – Georgia, College of Charleston, Georgia Southern and Wofford. Chattanooga went 7-2 against the four – with losses to Georgia and Georgia Southern – while South Carolina was 3-2 against them.
“South Carolina is a team from our area, so we’ve had an opportunity to see them play,” Moore said. “We should have a good bit of information on them already.”
The winner of this game will face either Penn State or Holy Cross in the second round on Tuesday.
Chattanooga – F Jennifer Wilson, F Nneka Irons, C Tiffany Patton, G Miranda Warfield, G Heather McDivitt.
South Carolina – F Penn, C Petra Ujhelyi, G Koretha Johnson, G Cristina Ciocan, G Kelly Morrone.
Chattanooga – Wilson, 9.9 ppg; Shamya Sermons, 7.4 rpg; McDivitt, 3.7 apg.
South Carolina – Penn, 24.3 ppg; Ujhelyi, 9.3 rpg; Ciocan, 6.9 apg.
HOW THEY GOT HERE:
Chattanooga – Automatic bid, Southern Conference tournament champion.
South Carolina – At-large bid, Southeastern Conference.
ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD:
Chattanooga – 0-4, 4 years.
South Carolina – 7-7, 8 years.