Jan. 18, 2015
Opponent: Florida (9-9, 1-4 SEC)
Date: Monday, January 19, 2015 | 7 p.m.
Site: Gainesville, Fla.
Arena: O’Connell Center (11,373)
Broadcast: SEC Network (Sam Gore, pxp; Carol Ross, analyst); via WatchESPN
Radio: 107.5 The Game (Brad Muller); GamecocksOnline.com
Live Stats: GatorZone.com
Series History: UF leads 20-13; SC won last five
South Carolina Notables
- Tonight’s game marks the 100th SEC regular-season outing of South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley’s career. She is 57-42 (.576) in SEC action, including a 26-24 (.520) mark in road games.
- Only one team has shot over 40.0 percent from the field against South Carolina this season – Charlotte (Dec. 4) and only six others have hit more than one-third of their attempts. Two of those have been in SEC play – at LSU (Jan. 4, 34.4%) and at Alabama (Jan. 8, 37.3%).
- Junior Tiffany Mitchell is tied for the SEC lead with 15.6 points per league game this season, shooting 44.8 percent in conference action (fourth). The reigning SEC Player of the Year has asserted herself more in the offense in conference play, leading the team with 58 field goal attempts and 2.8 assists per game.
- Sophomore Alaina Coates has ramped up her offense in SEC play, shooting a team-high 65.4 percent in league games after hitting 53.3 percent in non-conference action.
- Freshman A’ja Wilson is making her case for SEC Freshman of the Year, ranking 10th in the league in both scoring and rebounding. She is the only freshman among the top 20 in both categories. Overall on the season, she has scored in double figures in all but three games and has four double-doubles to her credit.
A South Carolina Win Would…
- Extend the school record for longest win streak to 18.
- Make the Gamecocks 6-0 in league play. extending the program record for best SEC start.
- Be the Gamecocks’ sixth straight over Florida and the third-straight at the O’Connell Center.
By the Numbers
1 Block needed by sophomore Alaina Coates to move into the Gamecocks all-time top 10 in career blocks
7 Double-doubles by Alaina Coates this season, tied for the SEC lead, including four in the last eight games
9 South Carolina 1,000-point scorers who have also grabbed at least 800 career rebounders, with senior Aleighsa Welch joining the group on Jan. 11 (vs. #10/11 Kentucky)
10 Games this season in which at least one Gamecock has posted a double-double
14 Games in which freshman A’ja Wilson has scored in double figures – a team high
22.1 Free throw attempts per game by South Carolina this season, compared to 13.5 by its opponents
25 Rank in career points in program history for junior Tiffany Mitchell (1,087)
51 Straight starts by senior center Elem Ibiam, who has not missed a start since her debut at the opening tipoff in the season opener of her junior year
815 Career rebounds by senior Aleighsa Welch, more than any other current SEC player and eighth in school history
Florida Series History
The Gators lead the all-time series with the Gamecocks 20-13, but South Carolina has won the last five meetings and is 5-4 against Florida in the Dawn Staley era. The Gamecocks have increased their margin of victory in four of the last five wins over the Gators with the most decisive win coming on Feb. 23, 2014, at Colonial Life Arena when then-No. 4 South Carolina topped Florida 69-55 in front of over 10,000 fans. Tiffany Mitchell posted 20 points and eight rebounds, while Alaina Coates added a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds to go with five blocked shots. The Gamecocks got out to a 10-point lead at halftime behind 50.0 percent shooting (12-of-24) and a defensive effort that held the Gators to just half that (8-of-32). The Gamecocks’ last trip to the O’Connell Center was on Jan. 20, 2013, when they were ranked 19th in the nation and escaped with a 52-44 victory. The win again came from a 24-17 halftime lead as both teams struggled from the field. Neither team shot over 30.0 percent for the game, but South Carolina dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Gators 59-41, including 26 offensive boards. Then-freshmen Khadijah Sessions and Mitchell iced the game at the free throw line after Florida got within three in the final 20 seconds.
South Carolina’s success this season has been built on a blend of experience and youthful talent. Freshman A’ja Wilson has led the team in scoring a team-high eight times, and sophomore Alaina Coates leads the way with as many entries as the team’s top rebounder this season. Still, the Gamecocks’ youth movement is still learning to navigate the rigors of the SEC schedule. In the last two games, both which pushed South Carolina late, the “old” faithful were the ones stepping up with junior Tiffany Mitchell leading the way with 19 points in each and senior Aleighsa Welch pulling down double-digit rebounds in both. While Coates and Wilson have posted similar numbers in conference and non-conference action, both of the Gamecocks’ player of the year candidates have lifted their production since SEC action tipped off on Jan. 2. Mitchell’s scoring average rose from 14.8 in non-conference play to 15.6 in league play, which is tied for the league lead. Welch, who annually has seemed to take purposeful step back to let younger players find their way in non-conference play, has lifted her rebounding average from 5.2 to 7.6 in SEC action, which ranks ninth in the league.
South Carolina has won all five of its games this season when the margin is under 10 points in the last five minutes, and the Gamecocks have done so with their primary strengths – Tiffany Mitchell and rebounding. In those five games – Southern Cal, vs. #22/22 Syracuse, at #9/8 Duke, #10/11 Kentucky and at Missouri – Staley trusts in Mitchell’s competitive spirit, giving her the ball in late-game situations. The junior has answered the bell, averaging 3.6 points per final five minutes of those games – double the next Gamecock on the list. Behind her fearless attacking of the rim, a majority of her points have come at the free throw line, where she has hit 12-of-14 attempts during those close-game situations. In a show of determination, the Gamecocks have also dominated the glass at crunch time, out-rebounding their opponents 6.2 to 4.4 per final five minutes, with Alaina Coates, A’ja Wilson and Aleighsa Welch grabbing the bulk of the boards. As a team, South Carolina is shooting 40.0 percent from the field and the same percentage from 3-point range in the last five minutes of close games, while the defense has held those opponents to just 21.2 percent shooting and 18.2 percent from outside the arc in that time span. Equally impressive is the Gamecocks’ 77.1 percent free throw shooting at crunch time, as South Carolina is shooting just 65.3 percent otherwise. Win Any Way As the Gamecocks’ baseball coach a few years ago, South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner frequently used the saying “Win Anyway,” and the women’s basketball team has put its own twist on the quote. The Gamecocks have not lost a game this season, but the end has not always come by the same means. Dawn Staley’s team has won with both a high-flying offense – posting records of 4-0 when scoring 90+ points, 4-0 when scoring 80-89 points – and a more methodical one, 4-0 when scoring 70-79 points, 6-0 with scoring fewer than 70. The Gamecocks have won both inside – 8-0 when shooting less than 33.3 percent from 3-point range, 6-0 when at least half of points come in the paint – and outside – 9-0 when shooting 33.3 percent or better from 3-point range, 11-0 when less than half of points come in the paint. South Carolina has seen its top scorer come from both the starting lineup (8-0) and the bench (8-0) – with one game a starter and reserve tied for the team high (vs. Auburn – Welch, Wilson).
Senior center Elem Ibiam is making a charge at the school record for career blocks this season after setting the single-season mark with 83 in 2013-14. The Fayetteville, Ga., native is currently second with 149 in her career, trailing the Gamecocks’ career record of 177 of set by Lakesha Tolliver (2004-07).