March 2, 2010
Ole Miss Series: OM leads 16-12; At Neutral Site: OM leads 3-1; In Columbia: SC leads 7-6; In Oxford: OM leads 8-3
Radio: WISW 1320 AM and GamecocksOnline.com (Brad Muller and Marcy Girton)
Television: FSN (Bob Rathburn and Carol Ross)
South Carolina Notables
- This is the program’s 36th season as a varsity sport.
- In SEC play, Carolina is 1-4 when failing to win the battle for points in the paint and 2-7 when opponents net the same amount or more points off turnovers.
- The Gamecocks are 3-18 all-time in SEC Tournament play and have played a second-round game just four times in 18 years at the event.
- Kelsey Bone’s eight double-doubles are the most by a Gamecock freshman since Sheila Foster posted 13 in 1978-79.
- Sophomore La’Keisha Sutton leads the team with 3.1 assists per SEC game (13th in the league) after handing out just 1.5 assists per non-conference game.
- South Carolina has three wins over nationally-ranked teams for the first time since the 2002-03 season, during which the Gamecocks were also ranked for most of the season. South Carolina was 4-7 against ranked teams that season.
A South Carolina Win Would…
- Be the Gamecocks’ first in the SEC Tournament since the last time the event was played in Duluth, where South Carolina defeated then-No. 9 seed Auburn 65-63 on March 1, 2007.
- Be the first SEC Tournament win for head coach Dawn Staley.
- Bring head coach Dawn Staley within three wins of her 200th as a head coach.
- Be the Gamecocks’ second win over Ole Miss this season, making it the first time South Carolina has topped the Rebels twice in the same season since 2002-03.
Last Time Out…
South Carolina rallied back from a three-point halftime deficit to score a 73-70 win at No. -/22 Vanderbilt in the regular-season finale Sunday. With four players in double figures, the Gamecocks shook off their season-low scoring outputs of the previous two games to net 70+ points for just the third time in SEC play this season. South Carolina shot 53.3 percent in the second half for 44 points in the second stanza as the inside play of Charenee Stephens (14 pts) and Kelsey Bone (12 pts) peaked just in time to collect the win. A career game for freshman guard Ieasia Walker, including three clutch free throws in the final 25 seconds, helped drive the Gamecocks to just their second victory ever on the Commodores’ home court.
The Ole Miss Series
The Rebels lead the series 16-12, although the Gamecocks have won three of the last four meetings, including a 64-50 decision earlier this season in Columbia. The teams have played four times in the SEC Tournament with the Rebels winning three of those matchups. The last postseason meeting was in the 2004-05 season and went to Ole Miss 53-50. The lone Gamecock win in the SEC Tournament series was a 79-64 decision on March 6, 2003.
SEC Tournament Tidbits
South Carolina is 3-18 all-time in the SEC Tournament and has played in the second round just four times. Two of the Gamecocks’ three tournament victories have come when the event was played in the state of Georgia, including a 65-63 first-round win over Auburn in Duluth in the 2007 event. The Gamecocks have played Ole Miss in the tournament more than any other league team with a 1-3 record against the Rebels.
A pair of Gamecocks earned spots on the All-SEC Second Team, as the league’s coaches tabbed junior Valerie Nainima and Kelsey Bone with the honor. Bone was also a unanimous All-Freshman selection, following in the footsteps of now sophomore La’Keisha Sutton, who was a unanimous choice last season. Nainima and Bone are the first Gamecock tandem to share the All-SEC spotlight since Shaunzinski Gortman and Jocelyn Penn were first-team selections in 2001-02.
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 have faced 22 games against teams that participated in the 2009 postseason, including seven non-conference outings. South Carolina played 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 ninth-toughest in the nation (as of Mar. 1). Only Oklahoma, Connecticut, Rutgers, Texas A&M, Texas, Tennessee, Duke and Oklahoma State, have faced a more strident challenge than South Carolina this season.
South Carolina’s RPI is among the top half of the SEC at 48 (as of March 1). Ahead of the Gamecocks are Tennessee (3), Kentucky (21), Vanderbilt (22), Georgia (25) and LSU (28). Mississippi State (57) is just behind South Carolina with Auburn (75), Florida (78) and Ole Miss (82) round out the league schools inside the top 100.
Musings About March
South Carolina is 53-48 all-time in the month of March. The 1979-80 squad posted the most wins in the month dominated by postseason play with a 7-2 record as that team advanced to the AIAW National Tournament in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. During March, the Gamecocks are 12-11 at home, 15-5 on the road and 26-29 on a neutral court (two games in the Gamecock history book do not include the site of the contest, during which Carolina went 0-2).
Living in the League
Including a 7-9 mark this season, South Carolina is 73-178 in SEC games since joining the league for the 1991-92 season. The Gamecocks are 48-78 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 99-25 Atlantic 10 record. She is 9-21 after her second season in the SEC.
Adding the inside presence of freshman Kelsey Bone has dramatically increased the Gamecocks’ points in the paint production from 25.9 points per game last season to 33.0 per game this season. In fact, 51.0 percent of the total points the Gamecocks have scored (1,811) have come in the paint (924). With the increased inside focus, the stat has become one of the most telling for this season’s team. South Carolina is just 2-7 overall when not winning the scoring battle inside (wins at Auburn and at Charlotte). That number includes a 1-4 mark in SEC play.
Another telltale stat for South Carolina has been points off turnovers. While the Gamecocks are 11th in the league in turnover margin (-1.1), they have managed to overcome the stigma of that stat by limiting the points their opponents generate off those miscues. Foes have been most successful when solving the South Carolina transition defense as the Gamecocks are 3-11 overall when opponents record an equal number of or more points off turnovers than Carolina, including a 2-7 mark in SEC action. The victories were at Vanderbilt against Ole Miss and against San Diego State.
South Carolina’s 53.5 percent field goal shooting in the second half at Vanderbilt was the team’s highest accuracy in a half since hitting 55.6 percent in the second half at Alabama. The Gamecocks have hit 50.0 percent or better in a half seven times in SEC play this season, four of which are accounted for in two games – at Alabama and against Kentucky. South Carolina shot a season-high 64.0 percent (16-25) in the first half at Alabama and finished the game with a season-high 59.6 percent.
Eight of the Gamecocks’ 28 games this season have been decided by three points or less, including four SEC outings. South Carolina is an even 4-4 in those narrowly-decided games, 2-2 in league play. It the most games decided within that margin the Gamecocks have played in a season since joining the SEC for the 1991-92 campaign. In league action, South Carolina is 6-14 all-time in games decided by three or fewer points. Under head coach Dawn Staley, South Carolina is 7-5 in games decided by three or fewer points, 2-3 in SEC contests.
South Carolina is 48-182 all-time against nationally-ranked teams, including a 3-9 mark this season. The Gamecocks are 15-86 all time in road games against top-25 teams, including a 1-3 record this season. Under current head coach Dawn Staley, the Gamecocks are 3-16 against ranked opponents. Against ranked opponents this season, the Gamecocks have scored 59.7 points per game on 39.2 percent field goal shooting, including 30.7 percent from 3-point range, and are being out-rebounded by 1.0 boards per game. Ranked opponents are netting 68.9 points per game against the Gamecocks, hitting 44.3 perent from the field, including 36.6 percent from 3-point range. By comparison, South Carolina has scored 68.4 points per game against unranked foes shooting 42.6 percent from the field, including 38.9 percent from 3-point range, and out-rebounding opponents by 4.6 boards per game. Unranked teams are scoring 61.7 points per game on 39.2 percent shooting, including 27.2 percent from outside the arc.
Four for Four
Looking at the statistical breakdown for SEC games this season, South Carolina ranks among the top four of the league in four categories – 3-point field goal percentage (3rd, .361), scoring defense (4th, 63.0), field goal percentage (4th, .410) and rebounding margin (4th, +2.0).
Thrice as Nice
The Gamecocks are shooting 36.1 percent from 3-point range in SEC play to rank third in 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 35.4 percent of its 3-point attempts (129-364) to rank third in the league and 48th 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 2.9 3-pointers per game. She is 11th in the league and 80th in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage, hitting long-range shots at a 36.3 percent clip.
Heavenly at 70 … SEC Seeing 60
South Carolina has scored in the 70s six times this season and is a perfect 6-0 in those games. In fact, 70 points appears to be an critical threshold for the Gamecocks, who are 7-2 when reaching the plateau. Since Dawn Staley took the reins of the program, South Carolina is 11-3 in games in which it scores at least 70. As the Gamecocks’ defensive pressure has ramped up in SEC play, South Carolina’s offensive magic number falls in the 60s. Since league play began on Jan. 3, the Gamecocks are 6-2 in games in which they have scored at least 60 points, compared to a 1-4 mark when scoring less than 60.
Freshman Ieasia Walker played her way into the starting lineup in the regular-season finale after back-to-back solid outings at Kentucky and against Georgia, during which she committed just one turnover in a combined 52 minutes on the court. Walker proved she had earned the spot as she turned in a career outing at Vanderbilt with 18 points, including 6-of-8 shooting from the free throw line, five offensive rebounds and four assists in 39 minutes. The young guard showed the most poise when it counted, hitting 3-of-4 free throws in the final 25 seconds to stave off a Commodore comeback.
Bone Chilling – for Opponents That Is
South Carolina center Kelsey Bone has proven to be among the SEC’s top freshmen, leading the conference in rebounding (9.2) and ranking ninth in scoring (13.8), the highest-ranking first-year player in both categories. Bone’s rebounding average ranks 50th in the country and fifth nationally among freshmen. She has eight double-doubles this season and has snagged double-digit rebounds 12 times. Bone has scored in double figures 20 times, including five 20-point affairs and her career-high 32 at Clemson in the second game of the season.
In the 16 games played since turning the calendar to 2010, sophomore Charenee Stephens has been in double figures in either points or rebounds 10 times, including double-doubles against Mississippi State and at Kentucky. That production has put her among the SEC’s best as she ranks 11th in rebounding at 7.0 boards per game and leads the league in field goal percentage (.607).
Gamecocks on TV
South Carolina will play at least 14 games on television in 2009-10, including a pair of SEC contests on the ESPN family of networks. So far this season, the Gamecocks are 6-7 in live television games.
Newton Out for Season
Sophomore guard Courtney Newton will miss the rest of the 2009-10 season after undergoing surgery on Dec. 20 to repair a knee injury she suffered in practice on Dec. 11.