March 16, 2007
After enjoying a bye in the first round of the Women’s NIT, South Carolina (17-14 overall) will host Hartford (25-8 overall) at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Colonial Center. South Carolina’s players and coaching staff will hold a half-hour long free clinic for high school and middle school players and coaches on the Colonial Center floor after the game.
Carolina in the WNIT
South Carolina is making its third appearance in the Women’s NIT and its second straight. The Gamecocks won the 1979 Women’s NIT (then referred to as the NWIT) with a trio of wins over California, Oregon and Drake. The Gamecocks suffered a 70-65 overtime loss at Xavier in the first round of last year’s Women’s NIT to bring their all-time Women’s NIT record to 3-1.
Adults are admitted for $8. University of South Carolina students and youths under the age of 18 are admitted for $4. Call the South Carolina Ticket Office toll free at 800-4SC-FANS or locally at 803-777-4274 with any questions.
On The Air
The game will be broadcast live on WISW 1320 AM Radio in Columbia, with Brad Heller handling play-by-play duties and Robin Muller providing analysis. For fans outside of the Columbia area, the game can be accessed worldwide via the internet at uscsports.com.
How To Access the Web Broadcast
Go to uscsports.com, then click on the women’s basketball link on the left side of the page. From there, click on the “schedule” link near the top of the page, then click on the “Audio Broadcasts” link at the top of the page. Choose women’s basketball from the scroll bar on the right side of the page and choose the desired game from the list.
South Carolina guard Stacy Booker is likely to play in Sunday’s game after sustaining a left knee injury in the Gamecocks’ second-round SEC Tournament game against Tennessee. Center Ilona Burgrova is probable after sustaining an injury to her right shoulder and to her head in practice earlier in the week.
How They Got Here
As one of the top 16 teams in the 48-team Women’s NIT field according to the Women’s NIT tier system (three tiers of 16), South Carolina earned a first-round bye. Hartford, meanwhile, claimed a 70-54 win over Bucknell Thursday to advance to the second round. The Hawks won the regular-season America East Conference championship with a 15-1 league record, but suffered a 48-46 defeat at the hands of UMBC in the America East Tournament championship game.
South Carolina and Hartford have never met on the hardwood, but the Gamecocks do own a 2-0 record all-time against teams from the America East Conference, claiming a 75-70 win over New Hampshire in 1997 and a 56-53 win over Maine in 1991. Sunday’s game will not only mark the first head-to-head meeting between the two schools, but it will also mark the first SEC vs. America East matchup this season.
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 eighth season at Hartford, Jennifer Rizzotti has established herself as one of the top up-and-coming coaches in the nation. Rizzotti led the Hawks to the America East Conference regular-season championship this year en route to earning America East Coach of the Year recognition. This year’s title marked the second consecutive year in which Rizzotti has led Hartford to the America East crown. In addition, she led the Hawks to the 2002 America East Conference Tournament title.
Hartford Head Coach Jennifer Rizzotti had several memorable head-to-head clashes during her playing days at Connecticut with South Carolina assistant Michelle Marciniak during Marciniak’s time as a player at Tennessee. Rizzotti’s Huskies claimed a 70-64 win over Marciniak’s Lady Vols in the 1995 National Championship game, with Marciniak and crew returning the favor the next year, knocking Rizzotti and her squad out of the 1996 Final Four with an 88-83 overtime win in the semifinal round.
Hartford From A Distance
Back-to-back champions of the America East Conference, Hartford does its damage with defense, as the Hawks rank third nationally in scoring defense (52.4 ppg) and 13th in field goal percentage defense (.355 pct.) Hartford held 32 of its 33 opponents to 70 points or less and rattled off 15 consecutive wins before having that streak snapped with a 48-46 loss to UMBC in the America East Tournament championship game. Head Coach Jennifer Rizzotti was recognized as the America East Coach of the Year this year, with junior forward/center Danielle Hood and senior guard Ikea Witt named first-team all-America East Conference and freshman forward/center Diana Delva earning second team honors. The Hawks had a solid RPI of 47 and faced such teams as Purdue, Seton Hall, BYU, Michigan State, Hofstra and Connecticut.
A South Carolina Win Over Hartford Would…
:: Mark the Gamecocks’ third win in their last four games, as Carolina beat Mississippi State to end the regular season and followed that up with a win over Auburn in the first round of the SEC Tournament before eventually falling to Tennessee in the second round of the conference tournament.
:: Improve the Gamecocks to 1-0 all-time against Hartford and 3-0 all-time against teams from the America East Conference, as Carolina owns previous wins over New Hampshire (1997) and Maine (1991).
:: Set up a second round game against the winner of the Seton Hall vs. Hofstra game.
:: Mark the Gamecocks’ 18th win of the year, setting the third-highest win total for South Carolina since the Gamecocks joined the SEC for the 1991-92 season. Carolina won 25 games under Susan Walvius in 2001-02 and won 22 games in 2002-03.
Size Differential Between The Two Teams
When South Carolina and Hartford face off Sunday, the Gamecocks will hold a noticeable height advantage. Hartford’s active roster includes only four players standing 6-foot-tall or above and nobody taller than 6-foot-2. South Carolina’s Ilona Burgrova (6-foot-6), Iva Sliskovic (6-foot-5), Demetress Adams (6-foot-4) and Lakesha Tolliver (6-foot-3) all stand taller than Hartford’s tallest players (6-foot-2 freshmen Diana Delva and Kacey Pratt.)