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Jan. 2, 2010

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Game Information

LSU Series: LSU leads18-3; In Columbia: LSU leads 9-1; In Baton Rouge: LSU leads 9-1; At Neutral Site: SC leads 1-0
Radio: WISW 1320 AM and (Brad Muller and Marcy Girton)
Television: ESPNU (Sam Gore and Abby Waner)

South Carolina Notables

  • This is the program’s 36th season as a varsity sport.
  • The Gamecocks are 161-158 (.504) all-time in January, including a 94-69 (.577) mark at home.
  • South Carolina is 19-16 all-time in its first game of the new calendar year. The Gamecocks are 14-6 at home in those outings.
  • The Gamecocks and Lady Tigers have met in the SEC opener two other times since South Carolina joined the league in 1991-92. Each team has won once.
  • South Carolina ranks among the nation’s elite in the most recent strength of schedule and RPI standings. With seven teams currently among the nation’s top 25 on the docket, the Gamecocks have the eighth-toughest schedule in the nation and the second-strongest in the SEC behind just Tennessee (4). South Carolina is currently 38th in the RPI – fifth highest in the SEC (Tennessee 3, Georgia 9, LSU 20, Auburn 38).


A South Carolina Win Would…

  • Give the Gamecocks a 6-13 all-time record in SEC openers.
  • Raise the program record in the first game of the new calendar year to 20-16.
  • Bring the program within two wins of 600 in school history.
  • Be head coach Dawn Staley’s first over LSU and her 2004 Olympic coach Van Chancellor.

Last Time Out…
South Carolina split its two games at the Saint Joseph’s Hawk Classic last week, dropping a narrow 67-68 decision to Boston University in the first game before soaring past Brown 73-46 in the consolation game. Junior Valerie Nainima earned a spot on the all-tournament team after averaging 23.0 points and 3.0 assists.

Scouting the Lady Tigers
No. 11/12 LSU brings an 11-1 record into its first conference game of the season. SEC Preseason Player of the Year Allison Hightower leads the Lady Tigers in scoring at 16.6 points per game and in steals with 2.5 swipes per outing. Sophomore forward LaSondra Barrett is just outside double digits at 9.6 points per game to go with her team-high 5.9 rebounds per contest. As a team, the Lady Tigers are out-scoring their opponents by 27.3 points per game while out-rebounding them by 9.4 caroms per contest, both high marks in the SEC. LSU shoots 42.9 percent from the field, including 30.3 percent from behind the 3-point line, and hits 68.9 percent of its free throws. Opponents are shooting 33.6 percent from the field, including just 29.0 percent from 3-point range. Head coach Van Chancellor is in his third season at LSU with a 51-18 record, giving him a 21-year career mark of 500-172.

The LSU Series
The Lady Tigers lead the series 18-3 and are winners of the last 12 meetings, including the most recent, a 63-56 victory on Jan. 29, 2009. South Carolina’s last win in the series was a 76-61 victory in the first round of the 1998 SEC Tournament. The Gamecocks have won one of the 10 all-time meetings in Columbia – a 66-56 decision on Jan. 2, 1993.

Strength of Schedule
Staley stuck to her philosophy of challenging her teams in November and December as a building block for success in January and beyond. The Gamecocks face as many as 22 games against teams that participated in the 2009 postseason, including seven non-conference outings. South Carolina will play 11 games against SEC teams that played in the 2009 NCAA Tournament. As a result of those decisions by Staley, the Gamecocks’ schedule is currently ranked as the eighth-toughest in the nation (as of Jan. 1). Only Stanford, UConn, Michigan State, Tennessee, Old Dominion, Oklahoma and Rutgers are facing a more stringent challenge than South Carolina this season.

Despite the disappointing loss to Boston U in the opening game of the Saint Joseph’s Hawk Classic, South Carolina’s RPI remains among the highest in the SEC at 39 (as of Jan. 1). Ahead of the Gamecocks are Tennessee (3), Georgia (9), LSU (20) and Auburn (38). Kentucky (40) and Vanderbilt (45) are just behind South Carolina, and Arkansas rounds out the list of league schools with an RPI inside the top 100.

Home Sweet Home
South Carolina boasts a .696 all-time winning percentage (321-140) in games played in Columbia. The Gamecocks’ best season at home was the 2001-02 campaign, during which they went 17-1 in the first season in what is now known as Colonial Life Arena. South Carolina is currently 76-42 in the building, including a 4-0 mark so far this season.

Just January
South Carolina is 161-158 all-time in the month of January, helped by a 94-69 (.577) record in home games in the first month of the year. The Gamecocks’ best January was a 10-1 mark in the 1979-80 season. Since joining the SEC for the 1991-92 season, South Carolina is 62-94 in the first calendar month.

Dearly December
South Carolina boasts a .651 all-time winning percentage (140-75) in the month of December, supported largely by an 81-22 record (.784) at home. The Gamecocks have been perfect in the final month of the year three times, most recently with a 6-0 record in December 2005. A 79-61 win over then-No. 14 Minnesota kicked off the month-long winning streak. This season, South Carolina went 4-2 in the final month of the year. The Gamecocks out-scored their December opponents by 8.2 points per game and out-rebounded them by 8.2 boards per outing. Three Gamecocks averaged double-figure points, led by Valerie Nainima’s 22.0. Freshman center Kelsey Bone averaged a double-double in the last month of the year with 12.2 points and 11.3rebounds per game. Sophomore guard La’Keisha Sutton rounded out the trio of double digit scorers at 10.3 points per game.

New to the U
Tonight’s game against LSU is the Gamecocks’ first appearance on the ESPN family of networks since the 2003 NCAA Tournament first-round win over Chattanooga. South Carolina has not appeared on any of the ESPN networks in the regular season before this game.

Board Games
After winning the battle of the boards just once in its first five games, South Carolina has out-rebounded its opponent in each of the last seven outings, including a 20-rebound advantage over Brown and a two-rebound edge over North Carolina, which had been out-rebounding its opponents by 9.9 boards per game. The Gamecocks have gone 5-3 in this stretch of games, during which they are pulling down 42.9 rebounds per contest compared to 35.1 by their opponents.

Life in the Fast Lane
With a renewed emphasis on transition defense, South Carolina has scored more fast-break points that its opponents in nine of 12 games this season, despite accumulating more turnovers than its opponent in seven of those nine contests. Forcing 20 turnovers against High Point, the Gamecocks poured in 23 fast-break points, the most in the Dawn Staley era of the program. Meanwhile, the Panthers managed to score just four fast-break points on the Gamecock’s 23 turnovers. Against Wake Forest, the Gamecocks committed 24 turnovers, but allowed the Demon Deacons just four fast-break points. Most recently, South Carolina yielded just two fast-break points on 22 turnovers against Boston University.

Rank Reading
South Carolina is 46-176 all-time against nationally-ranked opponents, including a 1-3 mark this season. The Gamecocks are 26-126 against teams ranked in the top 15 at the time of the game with 16 of those 26 wins coming on their home court. The last top-15 team the Gamecocks defeated was then-No. 14 Minnesota 79-61 on Dec. 13, 2005, in Columbia.

Our Pal Val
South Carolina guard Valerie Nainima has been the Gamecocks’ leading scorer seven times this season, during which the team has a 5-2 record. Nainima has reached the 20-point plateau four times in the last six games, leading the Gamecocks to three wins in those efforts. The lone losses were to No. 9/10 North Carolina, against which Nainima netted 26 points, and against Boston University, during which she netted 29 points. In last week’s Hawk Classic, Nainima averaged 23.0 points per game and was the team’s leading scorer in both games. She handed out 3.0 assists per game and shot 34.6 percent from the 3-point line in the two-game event to earn a spot on the all-tournament team. In the month of December, Nainima has scored 22.0 points per game on 41.0 percent field goal shooting. She is one shy of the team lead in assists this month, handing out 2.8 per game.

Kelsey Lately
The month of December has been marked by solid efforts from freshman center Kelsey Bone. Leading the team in rebounding in all four games, she is averaging 10.3 boards during the stretch while pouring in 15.3 points per contest. Her 27 points against No. 9/10 North Carolina led all scorers, and six of her 10 rebounds against the Tar Heels came on the offensive end. Her 15 rebounds against Boston U tied the program’s freshman record (Schonna Bonner vs. Southern Miss, 3/7/87). Ranked third in the SEC in rebounding (10.0) and eighth in scoring (14.5), Bone is one of just two players among the top 10 in both categories, joining Kentucky’s Victoria Dunlap (4th 17.2 ppg, 2nd 10.5 rpg). The last Gamecock to finish the season averaging a double-double was Marsha Williams in 1992-93 when she scored 13.6 points and grabbed 10.7 boards per game.

Walking Tall
After battling to find court time through the Gamecocks’ first six games of the season, freshman point guard Ieasia Walker has found her way in the final month of the year, especially in the last two games. Playing with new palpable confidence, despite wearing a face mask to protect a broken nose, Walker turned in her most complete game of the season against No. 9/10 North Carolina with 12 points, six rebounds (including three offensive), four assists and four steals in 33 minutes – all season highs. Sparked by that effort against the Tar Heels, Walker averaged 6.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists in the month of December. That output was nearly three times her averages over the team’s first six games this season.