March 21, 2003
The South Carolina Gamecocks open their 2003 NCA Tournament run Suday against the Tennessee Chattanooga Moccasins. Game time is set for 12:10 p.m. The Gamecocks (22-7) received the fifth seed in the Mideast Region while the Mocs (26-4) were slated at #12.
USC ended their regular season at the SEC Tournament quarterfinals when the 16/15 Gamecocks lost to the 10/11th ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs. Until that Friday night contest, South Carolina had won six of its last seven games.
On March 8, UTC captured the Southern Conference Championship, and thier third NCAA Tournament bid, with a 66-52 victory over Georgia Southern. The Mocs have won nine consecutive games entering today’s contest.
The two teams have never faced each other but faced four common opponents during the 2002-03 season; Georgia, College of Charleston, Georgia Southern and Wofford. South Carolina captured three wins in the five games while the Southern Conference UTC Mocs defeated College of Charleston and Wofford but dropped the games against Georgia and Georgia Southern.
The Gamecocks have three players averaging in double figures with Naismith candidate Jocelyn Penn leading the way with an average of 24.3 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 second in 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 11.9 points per game and leads the team, and the SEC, in rebounding at 9.3 boards per game.
Penn missed the first outing of her 115-game career on Sunday, March 2nd when her sprained ankle kept her out of the USC-Ole Miss regular season finale. When she returned to the court on March 6th in the SEC Tournament first round game against Mississippi, the senior became the SEC’s career leader in steals when she broke the tie between herself and Niesa Johnson (formerly of Alabama) with her 351st steal.
The winner of Sunday’s game advances to Tuesdays second round game and will face the victor of the Penn State – Holy Cross contest.
This is the eighth NCAA Tournament appearance for South Carolina and the Gamecocks hold a 7-7 record in these eight visits to the dance.