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Nov. 25, 2003

The University of South Carolina women’s basketball team looks to start the Thanksgiving holiday off with a win Wednesday night as the Gamecocks face the Bears of Mercer University. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m.

The two teams have met only six times in the past with the last game on January 21, 1983, in Columbia when USC captured a 92-70 victory. The Gamecocks own a 4-2 advantage over Mercer but have won only one of the three Columbia games.

Both teams enter the game with 1-1 records as Mercer defeated Central Connecticut State in its opener, 68-56, and lost to Eastern Michigan Saturday, 92-40, in the Eagle Classic Championship Game. South Carolina achieved its 1-1 mark by defeating Appalachian State Monday night, 82-66, but losing at Clemson in overtime last Friday, 103-99.

South Carolina hopes to regain the services of top scorer and preseason All-America guard Cristina Ciocan for tonight’s contest. After spraining an ankle in Sunday’s practice, Ciocan was unable to play Monday night and is listed as day-to-day.

The Gamecocks received another injury blow over the weekend as highly-touted freshman Lakesha Tolliver was lost for the season with a torn ACL and lateral meniscus. Tolliver injured her knee at the end of Saturday’s practice and will rehab the injury for two or three weeks before undergoing surgery.

The Gamecocks have five players averaging in double figures with Ciocan leading the way with 22 points per game. Senior Kelly Morrone is averaging 20 per game and has played in 79 of the team’s 85 minutes so far this season. Olga Gritsaeva is contributing 13.5 per game while Sarah Burgess and Iva Sliskovic round out the top five with 13 and 12 points per contest, respectively. Ciocan and Gritsaeva also lead the rebounding efforts for USC with 10 boards per contest.

Mercer returns five players from last year’s 12-16 squad that finished fourth in the Atlantic Sun. The Bears welcomed seven newcomers to the squad this season. This will be the tallest team that USC has faced so far this year as seven of the 12 Mercer players are at least 6’0 tall. The Bears are led by second-year head coach Brenda Welch-Nichols. Before arriving at Mercer, Nichols was an assistant at South Alabama and Memphis.

The Bear scoring attack is led by Jessica Miller’s 10.5 points per contest with Amanda Parker and Karen Hickman close behind at 7.5 per game. Miller also paces the team on the boards with 5.0 rebounds per contest.

Fans can purchase $2 tickets by making a clothing donation to the Salvation Army Clothing Drive at the Colonial Center Wednesday night.

What’s Up Next for the Gamecocks !!!!! South Carolina battles Florida A&M Saturday, November 29th at 6:00 p.m. in the third of the team’s four pre-SEC home games. After Saturday night, the Gamecocks return for only one more home game against Louisiana Lafayette on December 18th before the January 15th contest against Tennessee.

Saturday is “Family Day” at the Colonial Center as fans can buy family tickets for the South Carolina-FAMU game for only $10.00. This package includes 2 tickets for adults and 2 children tickets. Tickets will be available at the Colonial Center ticket office.