Feb. 3, 2010
Auburn Series: Auburn leads 19-13; In Auburn: Auburn leads 10-4; In Columbia: SC leads 8-7; At Neutral Site: Auburn leads 2-1
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.
- The Gamecocks are 22nd in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage (.376)
- In the last four games, the Gamecock defense has held opponents to just 59.5 points per game, allowing only LSU to eclipse the 60-point mark. Prior to this stretch, opponents had been netting 67.2 points per game.
- In SEC games only, Gamecocks have both the player with the highest field goal percentage (Stephens, .674) and 3-point percentage (Sutton, .647).
- Looking at the last four games, sophomore La’Keisha Sutton has been the most consistent offensive player, averaging 15.3 points and 3.3 assists.
- South Carolina is 7-3 this season when handing out 10 or more assists.
- South Carolina is 168-123 (.577) all-time in February, including a 98-34 (.742) mark at home. The Gamecocks are 53-77 on the road and 12-7 in neutral games. There are 10 games for which the site is unknown.
A South Carolina Win Would…
- Give the Gamecocks five SEC victories, the most since the 2008 squad collected six.
- Bring Dawn Staley within six wins of her 200th as a head coach.
- Be the Gamecocks’ second-straight over Auburn but their first road win over the Tigers since a 58-46 decision on Feb. 16, 2006.
Last Time Out…
South Carolina gave No. 5/5 Tennessee all it could handle Sunday at Colonial Life Arena. The Gamecocks led for all but a few seconds of the game until the final two minutes when the Lady Vols escaped with a 60-55 victory. The Gamecocks took a 26-25 lead into halftime, the program’s first such lead over the Lady Vols since a 36-20 edge on Feb. 15, 1996. That game, which went to overtime, also resulted in a narrow loss, 79-73. In Sunday’s affair, the South Carolina defense held the Tennessee starting lineup to just 28 points on 37.1 percent shooting, including 2-of-7 from 3-point range.
The Auburn Series
The Tigers lead the series 19-13, although the Gamecocks have a 4-3 edge in the last seven meetings. After Auburn swept the 2008-09 season series, South Carolina claimed a 63-49 victory in Columbia to open this season’s set of games. Auburn holds a 10-4 advantage in games played on its home court with the last Gamecock victory at the venue coming in a 58-46 decision on Feb. 16, 2006. South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley is 1-1 against her 2000 Olympic coach, Nell Fortner.
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 6th-toughest in the nation (as of Feb. 3). Only Rutgers, Connecticut, Oklahoma, Stanford and Tennessee have faced a more strident challenge than South Carolina this season.
South Carolina’s RPI is among the highest in the SEC at 31 (as of Feb. 3). Ahead of the Gamecocks are Tennessee (3), Georgia (17), Kentucky (24) and Vanderbilt (27). LSU (32) and Mississippi State (45) are just behind South Carolina, while Auburn (51), Florida (86) and Ole Miss (95) round out the list of league schools with an RPI inside the top 100.
Figuring Out February
South Carolina is 168-123 (.577) all-time in the month of February, thanks in large part to a 98-34 (.742) record in Columbia. The Gamecocks have been perfect in February twice in their 35 seasons of women’s basketball, the most recent was a 7-0 mark in 1991 and the first was a 9-0 stretch in 1986. There are seven games on the February slate this season. Home Sweet Home South Carolina boasts a .695 all-time winning percentage (324-142) in games played in Columbia. The Gamecocks’ best season at home was the 2001-02 campaign with a 17-1 record in the first season in what is now known as Colonial Life Arena. South Carolina is 78-44 (.639) in the building, including a 7-2 mark this season.
Living in the League
Including a 4-5 mark this season, South Carolina is 71-174 in SEC games since joining the league for the 1991-92 season. The Gamecocks are 46-74 in regular-season SEC games played in Columbia. South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley boasts a 108-46 record in league play, including eight seasons leading her Temple team to a 107-45 Atlantic 10 record. She is 9-21 in her second season in the SEC.
On the Rise
Looking at the statistical breakdown for SEC games this season, South Carolina ranks among the top half of the league in four key categories, including two appearances among the league’s top three. The Gamecocks lead the SEC in 3-point field goal shooting, hitting 41.7 percent from beyond the arc in league play, and are third in rebounding margin, pulling in 3.3 more boards than their SEC opponents. Shooting 43.3 percent from the field in league play, South Carolina is fourth, and the Gamecocks are sixth in the league in scoring defense, allowing SEC opponents just 63.9 points per game.
Get By With a Little Help…
Teamwork being another staple of the Dawn Staley coaching philosophy, it should come as no surprise that the Gamecocks are 7-3 this season when handing out 10 or more assists. South Carolina has shot over 50 percent from the field three times this season. In each of the first two outings of that accuracy (North Carolina and Alabama), the Gamecocks handed out a season-high 19 assists. In the third game (Kentucky), the team amassed 14 assists.
Dealing in Diversity
Like all good investments, South Carolina is best when it is diversified. The Gamecock offense this season is built around the inside-outside, primarily with junior guard Valerie Nainima and freshman center Kelsey Bone. While those two players are among the SEC’s best, the Gamecocks are just 3-7 when the duo accounts for at least 50.0 percent of the team’s points.
Thrice as Nice
The Gamecocks are shooting 41.7 percent from 3-point range in SEC play to lead the league. That accuracy is highlighted by an 8-of-12 showing by the Gamecocks at Alabama, which tied for the best outside shooting accuracy of the Dawn Staley era. For the season, South Carolina has hit 37.6 percent of its 3-point attempts (99-263) to rank second in the league and 22nd in the nation.
Inside the Outside Numbers
Junior Valerie Nainima has led South Carolina’s charge from beyond the arc in terms of volume, ranking fourth in the SEC and 17th in the nation by hitting 3.0 3-pointers per game. She is not the team’s 3-point percentage leader in SEC games, however. That honor falls to sophomore La’Keisha Sutton who is hitting an SEC-best 64.7 percent from behind the arc through nine SEC contests. Nainima’s 43.3 percent long-range shooting in conference play is sixth-highest in the league.
Sophmore La’Keisha Sutton has been a key catalyst of the Gamecock offense in the last two weeks. Over the last four games, during which she has netted double figures each outing, she leads the team in scoring (15.3 ppg) and assists (3.3 apg). She has hit 44.2 percent from the field, including a sparkling 75.0 percent from 3-point range, and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.44. For the season Sutton is now third on the team in scoring at 11.3 points per game, 24th-best in the SEC. Her 12.0 ppg in league play ranks her 20th in the conference, and her 64.7 percent accuracy from 3-point range against SEC teams leads the league.
Our Pal Val
South Carolina guard Valerie Nainima has been the Gamecocks’ leading scorer 10 times this season, during which the team has a 6-4 record. She has scored in double figures in all but one game this season, including six games with 20 or more points. Nainima is fourth in the SEC with 17.4 points per game and ranks 17th in the nation in 3-point field goals per game at 3.0.
In the nine games played since turning the calendar to 2010, sophomore Charenee Stephens has been in double figures in either points or rebounds five times. That production has put her among the SEC’s best as she ranks ninth in rebounding at 7.1 per game and leads the league in field goal percentage (.611). Her 67.4 percent accuracy from the field in SEC play is also a league high. The Gamecocks are most successful when Stephens is at her best on the offensive end as she scores 7.3 more points per game in South Carolina wins than losses. The Gamecocks are a perfect 6-0 when Stephens scores in double figures.