Jan. 13, 2010
Kentucky Series: UK leads 26-16; In Columbia: SC leads 11-8; In Lexington: UK leads 15-5; At Neutral Site: UK leads 3-0
Radio: WISW 1320 AM and GamecocksOnline.com (Brad Muller and Marcy Girton)
South Carolina Notables
- This is the program’s 36th season as a varsity sport.
- Sunday’s game at Alabama was the first SEC game in which five Gamecocks scored in double figures since a 77-51 win over Alabama on Feb. 12, 2004.
- After spotty free throw shooting hurt the Gamecocks in non-conference play, South Carolina is hitting 77.5 percent from the charity stripe in SEC games to rank second in the league.
- South Carolina is among the league’s best shooting teams since SEC play began three games ago. The Gamecocks are third in the league with a field goal percentage of .447 in conference games, including a .459 3-point field goal percentage, which ranks second in the SEC.
- The Gamecocks are 162-160 (.503) all-time in January, including a 94-70 (.573) mark at home.
A South Carolina Win Would…
- Be the Gamecocks’ first over Kentucky since a 65-57 decision on March 2, 2008.
- Give the Gamecocks two SEC wins in the season’s first four games for the first time since the nationally-ranked 2002-03 team opened its conference schedule 2-2.
- Bring the program within one win of 600 in school history.
Last Time Out…
South Carolina scored its earliest SEC victory since 2002-03 with an 80-68 victory at Alabama on Sunday. Five players reached double-figure points, led by Valerie Nainima’s 21. The Gamecocks shot a Dawn Staley era high 59.6 percent from the field and matched their season high with 19 assists in the outing.
The Kentucky Series
The Wildcats lead the series 26-16 after sweeping the two-game series last season. The last Gamecock win in the series was a 65-57 outcome on March 2, 2008, in Lexington. South Carolina holds an 11-8 edge in games played in Columbia since the series began on Jan. 10, 1979. Kentucky won the last meeting at Colonial Life Arena 70-53 on March 1, 2009, while the Gamecocks’ last home win over the Wildcats was a 66-56 decision on Jan. 28, 2007.
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 22 games against teams that participated in the 2009 postseason, including seven non-conference outings. South Carolina plays 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. 12). Only Stanford, Oklahoma, Michigan State, Rutgers, Tennessee, Connecticut and Virginia are facing a more strident challenge than South Carolina this season.
South Carolina is 162-160 all-time in the month of January, helped by a 94-70 (.573) 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 63-96 in the first calendar month. This season, the Gamecocks are 1-2 in January.
Home Sweet Home
South Carolina boasts a .695 all-time winning percentage (321-141) 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 76-43 in the building, including a 4-1 mark so far this season.
Thrice as Nice
South Carolina tied its best outside shooting accuracy of the Dawn Staley era Sunday at Alabama, hitting 8-of-12 from beyond the 3-point arc. The Gamecocks were also 8-of-12 from long range against Charlotte on Dec. 21, 2008. The effort lifted South Carolina’s 3-point field goal percentage this season to .368, which ranks the Gamecocks 38th in the nation and third in the SEC.
In the Zone
The Gamecocks scorched the nets at Alabama, hitting 59.6 percent from the field for the game, including a sizzling 64.0 percent in the first half. The nearly 60 percent accuracy was the highest for a South Carolina team since 61.8 percent shooting delivered an 81-40 home victory over Hartford in the first round of the WNIT on March 18, 2007. It was the Gamecocks’ best percentage away from their home court since shooting 60.0 percent at East Carolina on Feb. 27, 1989.
After winning the battle of the boards just once in its first five games, South Carolina has out-rebounded its opponent in nine of its last 10 outings. Among those nine games are an 11-rebound edge over No. 11/12 LSU, which had been out-rebounding opponents by 9.4 boards per game, 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 are 6-3 in those nine games, during which they pulled down 41.4 rebounds per contest compared to 33.8 by their opponents.
Life in the Fast Lane
With a renewed emphasis on transition defense, South Carolina has scored more fast-break points than its opponents in nine of 15 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. South Carolina yielded just two fast-break points on 22 turnovers against Boston University.
Two Gamecocks Among Nation’s Best
In NCAA rankings through games of Jan. 10, junior guard Valerie Nainima and freshman center Kelsey Bone found themselves among the nation’s best in a total of three statistical categories. Nainima is 28th in the country in scoring average (18.7) and 23rd in the nation in 3-point field goals made per game (2.8). Bone is the 26th-highest rebounder in the country (10.0 rpg).
Our Pal Val
South Carolina guard Valerie Nainima has been the Gamecocks’ leading scorer nine times this season, during which the team has a 5-4 record. Nainima has reached the 20-point plateau five times in the last 10 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. Nainima has led the team in scoring in each of the first three SEC games of the season, netting 13 points against No. 11/12 LSU, 16 at No. 4/4 Tennessee and 21 at Alabama, to rank ninth in the league wihth a 16.7 scoring average in league play. She is shooting 48.6 percent from the field in SEC games, including 47.4 percent from 3-point range.
After turning in a series of solid efforts through December, freshman center Kelsey Bone is averaging a double-double (11.0 pts/10.0 reb) so far in January SEC play. She turned in her fifth double-double of the season at Alabama with 14 points and 13 rebounds to move into sole possession of the SEC rebounding lead at 10.0 boards per game for the season.
Sophomore Charenee Stephens is the Gamecocks’ second-leading rebounder with 7.5 per game, a number that would rank her among the SEC’s top 10 if she had not missed more than 25 percent of South Carolina’s games so far this season. In SEC games only, Stephens ranks 13th in the conference with 6.3 boards per outing. She has led South Carolina in rebounding five times this season, and the Gamecocks are 3-2 in those outings. Averaging 9.3 points this season, Stephens is scoring nearly double her average from last season. Her career-high 20 points led the Gamecocks to victory over then-No. 23/24 San Diego State at the Paradise Jam. Her .611 field goal percentage through three SEC games ranks her second in the conference. Stephens posted her second career double-double against Penn State with 17 points and 11 rebounds after opening the season by tying her career high with 12 rebounds at Charlotte. Stephens has grabbed six or more rebounds in seven of the 11 games she has played this season.
Freshman Ieasia Walker has opened her SEC season with a bang, raising her game in nearly every statistical category – most notably 3-point shooting. Walker entered league play hitting just 30.8 percent (4-13) from 3-point range, but her timely long-range shots during league play have fallen at an SEC-best rate of 62.5 percent (5-8). She is 14th in the league in 3-pointers made, netting 1.7 per game. In SEC play, Walker is scoring 7.7 points per game and is second on the team in assists, handing out 1.7 per contest.