Dec. 4, 2003
South Carolina takes on the Thunderbirds of Southern Utah in the opening contest of the Southwest Airlines Lobo Shootout Friday night. Tip-off is set for 8:00 p.m. ET. in Albuquerque, New Mexico. On Saturday night, USC will face either Tennessee State or New Mexico with an expected start time of either 8:00 p.m. ET or 10:00 p.m. ET.
South Carolina brings a 4-1 record and a four-game winning streak following the opening night loss at Clemson. After capturing its first three games, SUU lost to Idaho State, 98-65, at home Tuesday night for its 3-1 record. The two teams have never met before and marks the Gamecocks’ first meeting with a member of the Mid-Continent Conference.
South Carolina sits atop the SEC’s statistics as the conference’s top scoring offense (94 ppg) as the Gamecocks have five players averaging in double figures. Seniors Kelly Morrone and Cristina Ciocan leading the way with 20.6 and 15.8 points per game, respectively. Ciocan has already registered one triple-double and three double-double performances and paces the SEC in assists (12.75 apg) while Morrone is first in the SEC in three-point shooting (5.0 3FG per game) and fourth in scoring.
After setting new career highs in points Tuesday night at Stetson, sophomore Olga Gritsaeva and post partner, freshman Iva Sliskovic, are third and fourth on the team in scoring at 15.6 and 15.4 ppg. The “Twin Towers” are first and second in the SEC in field goal percentage with Sliskovic connecting on 71.8% and Gritsaeva at 71.4% of their FG attempts. Fellow first-year player Lauren Simms rounds out the top five with 10.2 points per contest. Gritsaeva paces the rebounding efforts for USC with 10.2 boards per contest.
South Carolina also leads the conference in field goal percentage (.521), assists (26.8), steals (12.0), three-point shots made (8.8).
Southern Utah is coached by the school’s all-time winningest coach, Joe Hillock, with his 91 victories. The Thunderbirds have three players averaging in double figures through the first game. Seniors Lacey Yates leads the team at 16.8 ppg, while Casey Cooke is second at 15.3 ppg.
Junior college transfer Janis beal is third with 10.0 points per outing.Yates leads the team’s rebounding efforts with 6.8 boards per contest. Cooke was named as the Mid-Con co-Player of the Week on November 24th for her performances against Utah State (27 points) and Sacramento State (18 points).
Senior center Lacey Yates was honored Monday, December 1st as the Mid-Continent Conference Player of the Week nominee after her effort at Wyoming. Yates tallied a career-high 24 points on a career-best-tying nine field goals, including the game-winning 3-point play conversion with 22 seconds left, to go along with a season-high eight rebounds, two blocks and a steal.
Southern Utah was voted to finish sixth in the conference by the Mid-Continent Conference coaches, SIDs and media in the annual conference preseason poll. The Thunderbirds, who return all five starters and eight letterwinners from last season’s squad 9-18 squad. Senior guard Casey Cooke (5-8, Parowan, Utah/Parowan HS/Snow JC), the Mid-Con’s second-leading returning scorer from last season at 14.9 ppg, was selected to the conference preseason first team and is SUU’s lone representative on either list.