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Feb. 23, 2007

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The Basics
South Carolina (15-13 overall; 5-8 Southeastern Conference) closes the door on the regular season when it hosts Mississippi State (17-11 overall; 7-6 SEC) at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Colonial Center.

Series History
Mississippi State owns a 12-8 advantage in the all-time series between the two schools and has won four of the last six meetings. South Carolina has won three of the last four meetings played in Columbia, including a 75-47 pounding of the Bulldogs last season.

SEC Tournament Scenarios
Barring monumental upset, South Carolina will go into next week’s SEC Tournament facing Auburn in the first round. The only scenario that pits the Gamecocks against a different first-round opponent is if Arkansas picks up a stunning upset win over either No. 2 Tennessee or No. 11 Georgia and Auburn loses either of its final two games against Florida or Ole Miss. If Arkansas loses both games, South Carolina will face Auburn regardless of what else happens this week.

2007 Senior Salute
Seniors Stacy Booker, Lea Fabbri, Shannel Harris, Iva Sliskovic, Lauren Simms and Larissa Kulcsar will play their final regular-season home game at the Colonial Center Sunday, and each player will be recognized with a special video presentation during media timeouts, with a full ceremony honoring all of the seniors immediately following the game. A look at the top 10 highlights from South Carolina’s class of 2007:

:: Single-season school records set for offensive rebounds, scoring defense, blocked shots, field goal percentage defense and most players on the SEC Winter Sports Academic Honor Roll.
:: Single-game school records set for most blocked shots, least points allowed in a game, lowest field goal percentage allowed and least points allowed in a half.
:: Seven SEC wins in 2005-06 marked the third-highest total since the Gamecocks joined the league for the 1991-92 season.
:: Back-to-back post-season appearances in 2006 and 2007.
:: A win over No. 14 Minnesota in 2005.
:: Consecutive road wins over Alabama, Mississippi State, Florida and Auburn in 2006, marking the first time that Carolina has ever won four straight SEC road games since joining the league in 1991-92.
:: Lauren Simms became the 26th member of South Carolina’s 1,000-point club in 2007.
:: Simms earned Freshman All-SEC honors in 2003-04.
:: Iva Sliskovic was recognized as SEC Player of the Week after posting a triple-double with 18 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists against High Point in 2006.
:: Larissa Kulcsar and Shannel Harris both earned their degrees, with Simms, Sliskovic, Booker and Fabbri all on track to graduate this year.

Local Reading Program Winners Honored Sunday
The University of South Carolina Athletic Department will recognize Midlands area youngsters at this Sunday’s women’s basketball game against Mississippi State, which is set to tip off at 3 p.m. at the Colonial Center. A total of 2,733 students from 34 Midlands Elementary Schools participated in South Carolina’s Reading Program this year and combined to read over one million pages (1,307,300 to be exact), a figure that is 18,000 pages more than last year’s total. The students chose their own books and read over the holiday break from Dec. 19- Jan. 4. They and their parents recorded the number of pages read and returned the information to the teachers, then a program coordinator provided USC Athletics with the information. Each school had a winning reader that will be recognized at halftime of Sunday’s game. For the seventh time in eight years, the winning school is Meadowfield Elementary. The winning readers are Ashraq Arshaf (6,599 pages read) of Congaree Elementary and Courtnie Wooten (11,316 pages read) of Congaree Wood Early Childhood Center. Sunday’s game is a celebration of the program. Each participant received a ticket to the game and the winners from each school will receive a prize pack from South Carolina Athletics. Meadowfield Elementary will be recognized at halftime and presented with an award from South Carolina Associate Athletic Director Charles Waddell. The winning readers will be recognized at the eight-minute timeout in the second half and will be presented with their awards by former Gamecock women’s player Olga Gritsaeva and former Gamecock men’s player Terry Dozier.

About The Coaches
South Carolina Head Coach Susan Walvius is in her 10th year at the helm of the Gamecock women’s basketball program. The 2002 SEC Coach of the Year, Walvius led the Gamecocks to the Elite Eight in 2002 and has guided Carolina to the postseason in three of the last five seasons. She has attracted top-15 recruiting classes to Carolina in 2003 (10th) and in 2005 (13th). In her 12th year at Mississippi State, Sharon Fanning was recognized as the SEC Coach of the Year in 2000 and ranks among the top 25 among active coaches in career victories. Fanning’s first head coaching job came at Tennessee-Chattanooga, where she patrolled the sidelines from 1976-87. She moved on to Kentucky, where she led the Wildcat program from 1987-95 before moving on to Mississippi State in 1995.

Mississippi State From A Distance
While not spectacular on the stat sheet, Mississippi State has found a way to pick up wins over solid teams such as Florida State, Georgia Tech and Ole Miss this season. Playing good ball lately, the Bulldogs have won seven of their last 10 games, including road wins at Kentucky, Ole Miss and Florida. Forwards Imesia Jackson and Robin Porter and guards Alexis Rack and Marnesia Richard carry much of the scoring load for the Bulldogs, but forwad Tysheka Grimes lit the Gamecocks up with 28 points in Mississippi State’s 87-73 win over Carolina in Starkville earlier this year.

A South Carolina Win Over Mississippi State Would…
:: Make it so the two teams split the season series, with both teams winning on their respective home court. Mississippi State handed Carolina an 87-73 defeat in Starkville on Jan. 21.
:: Mark the Gamecocks’ fourth win over Mississippi State in the last five games played between the two schools in Columbia.
:: Improve the Gamecocks to 14-4 at home this year, matching the 2002-03 season (14-2 at home) for most victories in a season in the Colonial Center. The school record for most home wins in a single-season is 15, set by the Gamecocks of 2001-02 and the Gamecocks of 1979-80. Both of those teams compiled 15-1 records at home.
:: Send the Gamecocks into next week’s SEC Tournament as winners of two of their final three regular-season games.

Gamecocks In The Top 25 Nationally
Entering the Mississippi State game, South Carolina ranks among the top 25 teams nationally in blocked shots (11th; 5.8 per game), rebounding margin (11th; +8.7) and steals (11th; 12.1 per game).