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March 2, 2011

Game Notes in PDF Format Get Acrobat Reader | SEC Tournament Central

Coach Staley – Tuesday Media Availability
Ieasia Walker – Tuesday Media Availability

Game Information

Date: Thursday, March 3, 2011
Time: 7:30 p.m. (ET)
Location: Nashville, Tenn.
Arena: Bridgestone Arena (17,576)
Ole Miss Series: OM leads 17-13; At Neutral Site: OM leads 4-1; In Columbia: SC leads 8-5; In Oxford: OM leads 8-4
TV: FSN (Dave Baker and LaChina Robinson)
Radio: WISW 1320 AM (Brad Muller and Marcy Girton);

South Carolina Notables

  • The Gamecocks have played more SEC Tournament games against Ole Miss than against any other league school.
  • South Carolina’s fifth seed in the 2011 SEC Tournament is its highest since the 2002-03 team also drew the No. 5 slot.
  • In SEC play, junior guard La’Keisha Sutton’s scoring and assists have generated 34.4 percent of the team’s points – 11.8 ppg by her and 8.3 ppg by teammates from her assists.
  • In SEC games, sophomore guard Ieasia Walker is ranked among the league’s top 10 in points per game (9th, 13.3) and steals per game (3rd, 2.8). The effort earned her a spot on the All-SEC Second Team.
  • Senior guard Valerie Nainima has averaged 9.2 points on 50.0 (12-of-13) shooting from 3-point range over the last five games. The stretch included back-to-back season-high outings of 15 points against both Tennessee and Auburn.
  • In the last three seasons, Jewel May has started all but three of the 86 games the Gamecocks have played. She has started 57 of the last 58 games, anchoring a frontcourt that has seen five different players join her there at the opening tipoff during that time.
  • Through games of Feb. 28, South Carolina’s strength of schedule is ranked 20th in the nation. In the SEC, only Tennessee (6), Florida (15) and Vanderbilt (17) are rated higher.


A South Carolina Win Would…

  • Be its 17th of the season, the most since the 2006-07 squad posted an 18-15 overall record.
  • Be its first in the SEC Tournament since the 2007 event, when the eighth-seeded Gamecocks topped ninth-seeded Auburn 65-63 in the first round.
  • Be head coach Dawn Staley’s first SEC Tournament victory.

By the Numbers
1 Gamecock who has started every game this season – Jewel May
3.6 Assists per game by junior guard La’Keisha Sutton, the most by a Gamecock since Cristina Ciocan handed out 5.3 per game in 2003-04
4 Overtime games (all in SEC play) South Carolina has played this season, in which it is 2-2
5 Statistical categories in which junior guard La’Keisha Sutton is ranked among the SEC’s top 20 in league games – scoring (16th), assists (6th), free throw percentage (9th), minutes played (6th) and assist-to-turnover ratio (12th)
15.7 Turnovers per game by the Gamecocks, who rank 52nd (fewest) in the nation and third in the SEC (behind LSU’s 14.5 and Arkansas’ 15.4) in the category
21 Games in which sophomore guard Ieasia Walker has scored 10 or more points (during which the Gamecocks are 12-9), including 14 of 16 SEC games
25 Games in which the Gamecocks have held their opponent below its scoring average, during which South Carolina has a 16-9 record
.500 3-point field goal percentage by senior guard Valerie Nainima (12-24) over the last five games, during which she averaged 9.2 points

The Ole Miss Series
The Rebels lead the series 17-13, but the Gamecocks have won four of the last six contests. South Carolina won this season’s meeting in Oxford 63-58 in overtime after Ole Miss rallied in the final five minutes to force the extra period. Senior guard Valerie Nainima scored seven of her total 11 points in overtime, and sophomor guard Ieasia Walker posted her first career double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds in the win. The Rebels and Gamecocks have met five times in the SEC Tournament with Ole Miss holding a 4-1 edge, including a win in last year’s event. The four South Carolina losses came by an average of 3.3 points with the most “lopsided” game of the set decided by seven points (2001). The Gamecocks’ win among the five games was a 79-64 decision in the first round of the 2003 event when they were seeded fifth playing the 12th-seeded Rebels.

SEC Tournament Tidbits
South Carolina is 3-19 all-time in the SEC Tournament and has played in the second round just four times. The Gamecocks have not fared well historically in Nashville, going winless in the tournament’s last three visits to Music City. South Carolina has played Ole Miss in the tournament more than any other league team with a 1-4 record against the Rebels. The Gamecocks’ lone win was a 79-64 decision in the first round of the 2003 event when South Carolina last had the fifth seed in the event.

Awards Season
South Carolina sophomore guard Ieasia Walker earned a spot on the All-SEC Second Team, as voted by the league’s coaches and announced on Tuesday. It is the second-straight season a Gamecock has earned the nod from SEC coaches and the first postseason award for Walker. She ranks among the SEC’s top 10 in both points (13.3) and steals (2.8) in league games, turning in double-figure points in 14 of 16 SEC contests this season. Walker is third on the team in rebounding in league games and is second in assists.

Dropping Dimes …And Buckets
Junior La’Keisha Sutton is on track to finish her season among the most well-rounded guards in South Carolina history. She is already among the top playmakers in recent years as her 3.6 assists per game are the most by a Gamecock since Cristina Ciocan handed out 5.1 per game in 2003-04. Adding 10.9 points per game to that assist average, Sutton could become just the 13th player at South Carolina to close her season with that many assists per game while also averaging double-figure points.

Dynamic Duo
The backcourt combination of junior La’Keisha Sutton and sophomore Ieasia Walker has been a key part of the Gamecocks’ team success this season, largely because the two combine versatility on offense with solid defensive effort game-in and game-out. The pair understand each other’s strengths in any given game and can adjust their output to what the team needs to be successful. That adaptability has been especially on display in the last three games, during which leading scorer honors switched hands from Walker to Sutton while top assist duties changed in the other direction for two of those three outings.

Not-to-Be-Forgotten Frontcourt
While not the centerpieces of the Gamecock offense, the effort of the South Carolina frontcourt can not be overlooked as critical to the teams success. Statistically the most undersized team in the SEC, South Carolina is the only team in the league without a player taller than 6-foot-1. Still, the Gamecocks have battled their way into the top half of the league in rebounding margin in league play (6th, -0.3). South Carolina has been out-rebounded just six times in conference play, and only Tennessee managed to pull down a double-digit advantage. In fact, taking out the two games against the Lady Vols, who boast four players standing 6-foot-3 or taller, the Gamecocks have a +2.6 rebounding margin in SEC action. The Gamecocks have turned rebounding into a team effort, but the bulk of the work centers around their top rebounders – sophomore Ashley Bruner and senior Jewel May. Bruner is 20th in the league with 5.6 rebounds per game, including 3.2 offensive boards per outing, which is good for seventh-best in the conference. In her final trip through the SEC, May has been producing at a high level in league games this season. She averages 4.8 rebounds per SEC contest, including 2.6 on the offensive end to rank ninth in the conference.

Difference Makers
As every coach knows, there are players who make the team better just be being on the court, especially in specific situations. South Carolina’s success this season has come from more than its leading scorers and rebounders. It has been built on the classic adage that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. As players accepted and mastered their roles, the Gamecocks surged. Two players, especially, embody that idea this season – senior Valerie Nainima and junior Courtney Newto. Both Nainima and Newton’s careers have been altered by knee injuries, and both have come back to give the Gamecocks what they could and what the team needed. Just 4-1/2 months after surgery to repair a torn ACL, Nainima returned to the court on Dec. 12 and made her way into the starting lineup just one month later. Her calmness and ability to run the offense was on immediate display a she netted eight points, including the first 3-pointer she took, and handed out three assists in her debut against NC State. Once back in the starting rotation, she single-handedly dismantled Ole Miss in overtime, scoring seven of the team’s 11 points in the final five minutes to snap a two-game losing streak. In the 13 games since she joined the starting lineup, Nainima has averaged 7.8 points per game and netted double-figure points five times as she has found her place in an offense that was forced to develop without her for most of the first half of the season. In the last five games, that average jumps up to 9.2 points per game and includes 50.0 percent shooting from 3-point range. Newton joined the program as a shooting guard and has become a starting forward. Her scoring ability still shows hints of the rust accumulated around four knee surgeries, but her attitude, work ethic and emotional leadership have been critical to the Gamecocks this season. Her insertion into the starting lineup at Ole Miss helped spark a string of six wins over eight games. Newton’s contributions go far beyond her 3.6 points and 3.5 rebounds per SEC game.

Front Runners
South Carolina has had little trouble playing from the front this season, posting a 14-4 record in games it has led at halftime. The lone losses were at UC Davis (Nov. 28), at then-No. 19 Kentucky (Jan. 13), at LSU (Feb. 24) and against Vanderbilt (Feb. 27). The Gamecocks are 0-1 when tied at halftime, dropping the game against Florida in the final 16 seconds. In the three seasons since Dawn Staley took over the program, South Carolina is 32-10 after leading at halftime and 2-4 when tied at the midway point.

Five for Fighting
After a non-conference season that saw just one game decided by 10 or fewer points, South Carolina has experienced much tighter games in SEC play. In fact, the closer the better for the Gamecocks who are 4-2 in SEC games decided by five or fewer points, compared to 4-6 in league games settled by six or more points. In the Dawn Staley era (2008-09 to present), the Gamecocks are 12-12 in five-point or closer games (4-2 this season), 9-10 when the scoring margin is between six and 10 points (2-3 this season), 15-16 in games decided by 11 to 20 points (8-4 this season) and 4-8 in games settled by more than 20 points (2-4 this season).

Managing March
The Gamecocks are 55-46 (.545) all-time in the month of March, including a 15-6 (.714) record at home. With most March games coming in postseason action, South Carolina is 27-29 (.482) in neutral site games in the third month of the year. Under head coach Dawn Staley, South Carolina is 0-3 in March. The Gamecocks went 0-2 in Staley’s first year at the helm (2008-09)and were 0-1 last season.

Neutral Parties
South Carolina is 83-69 all-time in games played at a neutral site. Under head coach Dawn Staley, the Gamecocks are 2-6 at neutral sites.

Time and a Half
The Gamecocks have played four overtime games this season, the most in South Carolina history and the second-straight season the program has logged multiple OT contests. Prior to the 2009-10 season, South Carolina had not played multiple OT games in a season since the 1995-96 squad logged extra time in four contests, putting up a 1-3 record in those games. Under head coach Dawn Staley, the Gamecocks are 3-3 in overtime contests, including a 2-2 mark this season.