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Nov. 21, 2003

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For the second consecutive season, Palmetto state rivals South Carolina and Clemson open their respective seasons facing each other in the annual red-letter event. Last year, the Gamecocks defeated the Tigers, 72-58, on Friday, November 22nd in the inaugural night of the then-called Carolina Center. The game tips off at 8:30 p.m. Clemson will look to turn the tables on South Carolina in the newly-renovated Littlejohn Coliseum.

The Gamecocks enjoy a strong opening night record as USC is 21-8 in regular season openers and 15-6 on the road. Since taking over the South Carolina program in 1997, head coach Susan Walvius is 5-1 in season openers with the only loss coming at the hands of Rice in the 2000 Preseason WNIT.

South Carolina is expected to send out a youthful team on Friday night when as many as two or three freshmen could crack the starting lineup. Freshmen Lauren Simms and Iva Sliskovic have all earned Coach Walvius’ praise for their hard work during the preseason and could earn a start tonight in their first collegiate game. Sophomores Sarah Burgess and Olga Gritsaeva are also expected to contend for starting nods as the duo have come back to school much improved from their freshmen year.

One thing is certain, preseason All-America candidate Cristina Ciocan will start at guard for the Gamecocks and the senior is only 123 assists away from becoming the USC career record holder. Ciocan is the top Gamecock scorer and rebounder from last year’s squad as she contributed 13.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game in 2002-03.

The Lady Tigers start a veteran team as four starters and nine letterwinners return for the 2003-04 season. Lakeia Stokes is the Lady Tigers’ leading returning scorer with an 8.3 ppg. average. Amanda White also returns at center after earning freshman All-ACC honors. She led the Lady Tigers in rebounding last season with a 6.1 rpg. mark. Last year, the Lady Tigers had a 14-15 record overall and a 5-11 mark in the ACC. Clemson Head Coach Jim Davis is entering his 17th season at Clemson. He has led the Lady Tigers to 14 NCAA Appearances and 11 top 25 seasons during his career. He has also coached the Lady Tigers to 11 seasons of at least 20 wins. Four Lady Tiger teams have advanced to the NCAA Final 16 and his 1991 team advanced to the NCAA Final Eight. Davis also led Clemson to ACC Championships in 1996 and 1999. Davis has a 330-165 record at Tigertown in his previous 16 seasons.

South Carolina did not play an exhibition games before tonight’s season opener. The Tigers fell to Premier Players, 68-67, on November 9th in their only preseason contest.