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March 5, 2015


South Carolina Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader | SEC Tournament Central

Coach Staley
Khadijah Sessions and Aleighsa Welch

Game Information

Opponent: Arkansas (17-12, 6-10 SEC) – No. 8 seed
Date: Friday, March 6, 2015 | Noon (CT)
Site: North Little Rock, Ark.
Arena: Verizon Arena (18,000)
Broadcast: SEC Network (Cara Capuano, pxp; Gail Goestenkors, analyst; Steffi Sorensen, sideline); via WatchESPN
Radio: 107.5 The Game (Brad Muller); SEC Radio Network Sirius 219/XM 190;
Live Stats:
Series History: ARK leads 17-13

South Carolina Notables

  • South Carolina is in its 41st season of women’s basketball. It is the program’s 24th season in the SEC and the seventh under head coach Dawn Staley. The back-to-back SEC champion has won at least 25 games in each of the last four seasons and played in the last three NCAA Tournaments, including two trips to the Sweet 16 (2012, 2014). The Gamecocks have spent 27 straight weeks ranked in the AP top 10, highlighted by 12 weeks at No. 1 this season.
  • The Gamecocks are 8-23 all-time in the SEC Tournament with a 5-6 record under head coach Dawn Staley. All five of Staley’s wins have come in the last four seasons as South Carolina played in two semifinals in the last three tournaments. This season marks the second straight that South Carolina has earned the No. 1 seed in the event.
  • The Gamecocks have played Arkansas in the SEC Tournament twice before (1995, 2002), losing both times.
  • South Carolina dominated the SEC coaches’ awards for the second-straight season, collecting four of the six individual honors and becoming the first team to have three entries on the All-SEC First Team since 2001. Only three program’s in league history have done that as South Carolina joins Tennessee (1994, 1995, 2000, 2001) and Georgia (1997). Junior Tiffany Mitchell became the league’s first back-to-back outright Player of the Year since LSU’s Seimone Augusts in 2005, 2006 and the sixth all-time. A’ja Wilson was the Gamecocks’ second SEC Freshman of the Year in as many seasons, and senior Aleighsa Welch became the Gamecocks’ first SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Dawn Staley wrapped up the individual winners as co-Coach of the Year, and sophomore Alaina Coates closed out the South Carolina entries with spots on the All-SEC Second Team and All-Defensive Team.
  • The Gamecock bench is among the most envied in the nation, averaging 37.2 points per game on the season. The group has tied or out-scored its starting teammates 16 times, including 11 SEC contests. Headlined by super-subs Alaina Coates (10.6 ppg/8.1 rpg) and A’ja Wilson (13.7 ppg/7.0 rpg), the group is actually multi-dimensional, especially in SEC action, during which freshman Bianca Cuevas averaged 6.8 points and junior Tina Roy came in at 4.9 points per game on a team-best 43.1 percent shooting from 3-point range.
  • South Carolina is seventh in the nation with a .477 field goal percentage this season. Defensively, the Gamecocks have allowed just two opponents reach that percentage this season – UConn (.554, Feb. 9) and Vanderbilt (.481, Feb. 15). In fact, only six opponents have shot 40.0 percent or better this season and six other have failed to reach the 30.0 percent mark, leaving South Carolina 11th in the nation in field goal percentage defense.
  • The Gamecocks have proven they can win games in a variety of ways – high or low scoring, inside or outside – because of a consistent defensive effort. South Carolina has won games scoring as few as 51 points (at Duke, Dec. 7) and as many as 111 (Savannah State, Dec. 14), but opponents have ranged just 26 (NC Central, Dec. 1) to 66 (Tennessee, Feb. 23) in the Gamecocks’ 27 wins.
  • South Carolina has shown its versatility throughout games this season with six different Gamecocks leading the offense in at least one game – three guards (Tiffany Mitchell 12, Bianca Cuevas 2, Asia Dozier 1) and three post players (A’ja Wilson 13, Alaina Coates 2, Aleighsa Welch 3).
  • Junior Tiffany Mitchell was named a Naismith Trophy semifinalist this week, keeping herself in the national player of the year conversation thanks to her ability to affect the game on both sides of the ball. She is the only active SEC player to rank among the league’s top 15 in points (2nd, 14.8 ppg), assists (14th, 2.8 apg) and steals (8th, 2.0).
  • Senior Aleighsa Welch will finish her career as one of the all-time great rebounders in South Carolina history. Her 425 career offensive boards are just two shy of the school record (Marsha Williams, 1990-93). At 898 career total rebounds, Welch is on the cusp of becoming just the fourth player in school history to record 1,000 career points and 900 career boards. She is tied for ninth in program history with 21 career double-doubles.
  • Forward A’ja Wilson closed the regular season with the best freshman rebounding game in program history with her 19 boards at Kentucky (Mar. 1), adding 16 points for her fifth double-double of the season. The top player in the 2014 signing class has been on a tear over the last six games, scoring 97 points in just 124 minutes. Wilson shot 52.4 percent over the stretch, averaging 16.2 points and 7.3 rebounds.
  • Junior point guard Khadijah Sessions has been a star on both sides of the ball for the Gamecocks lately. Always a steady defender who sets the tone for the team, she has been making a splash offensively, especially in the last seven games, during which she has averaged 6.1 points on 45.7 percent shooting, including 46.7 percent from 3-point range. Sessions has handed out 3.5 assists and swiped 2.2 steals per game during the stretch as well. Prior to the UConn game, she averaged 4.0 points on 36.4 percent shooting with 21.1 percent from long range while averaging 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals.


A South Carolina Win Would…

  • Bring the Gamecocks’ SEC Tournament record under head coach Dawn Staley to 6-6.
  • Put the Gamecocks into the semifinals for the second-straight season and the third time in the last four seasons.

By the Numbers
SEC games in which the Gamecocks have been out-rebounded
1 Game this season in which South Carolina has attempted fewer than 10 free throws (9 vs. Central Michigan, Dec. 20)
2 Consecutive SEC regular-season titles (out-right or shared) by the Gamecocks in as many seasons – the first in program history
2 Offensive rebounds needed by senior Aleighsa Welch to tie the school career record with 427
3.8 Assists per game by junior Khadijah Sessions over the last five games
4 Individual SEC awards brought home by the Gamecocks, matching last season’s total
5 Gamecocks shooting at least 50.0 percent for the season
5.1 Free throws made per game more by the Gamecocks than their opponents (14.8-9.7)
11 Double-doubles by Alaina Coates this season, including five in league play
13 Games in which the Gamecocks have shot at least 50.0 percent from the field, including seven SEC contests
15 Games in which the Gamecocks have out-rebounded their opponent by 10 or more, including eight in SEC play
15.4 Second-chance points per game scored by South Carolina, compared to 8.7 for its opponents
16 Games in which South Carolina’s bench has tied or out-scored its starters, including 11 SEC contests
16 Games, out of season’s 29, in which junior Tiffany Mitchell has shot at least 50.0 percent
16.5 Points per game more in the paint scored by the Gamecocks than their opponents (39.2-22.7)
21 Career double-doubles each by senior Aleighsa Welch and sophomore Alaina Coates, who are tied for ninth in program history
25 Fouls committed by the Gamecocks in the loss at #13/15 Kentucky (Mar. 1), a season high for a team that averaged just 14.8 prior to that
33 Times this season a Gamecock has played 30 or more minutes in a game, compared to 71 times last season

Arkansas Series History
The Razorbacks lead the series 17-13, but the Gamecocks have won six of the last seven, including a current five-game win streak. In the regular-season meeting on Feb. 19, South Carolina used a late first-half run and its size to wear down Arkansas in a 73-56 win at Bud Walton Arena. Mitchell led four Gamecocks in double figures as the team shot 52.1 percent from the field. The Gamecocks swept the home-and-home series last season, eking out a 55-51 victory in Fayetteville (Jan. 2) before storming past the Razorbacks 67-49 in Columbia (Feb. 9).

SEC Title Talk
In 2013-14, South Carolina became the seventh program to win the SEC regular-season title, and the Gamecocks joined even more elite company by repeating this season. Just four teams have done so, and South Carolina shares the honor with Tennessee (multiple times), Georgia (1996, 1997) and LSU (2005, 2006).

Rare Company
As just the second sophomore ever to earn SEC Player of the Year honors from the league’s coaches last season, junior Tiffany Mitchell became the seventh player to pick up the award twice in her career, joining South Carolina assistant coach Nikki McCray (1994, 1995) among others. Mitchell would be the second-straight player to do it after Kentucky’s A’dia Mathies completed her double in 2012 and 2013, but the first to earn the award outright in consecutive seasons since LSU Seimone Augustus took home the honor in 2005 and 2006.

New Name, Same Title
South Carolina became just the second team in league history to earn back-to-back SEC Freshman of the Year awards as A’ja Wilson followed in the footsteps of Alaina Coates. Only Georgia has captured the award in consecutive seasons – 2001 with Christi Thomas and 2002 with Kara Braxton. Wilson and Coates also share the SEC record, with several others, with five SEC Freshman of the Week honors.

Books and Boards
Senior Aleighsa Welch became the Gamecocks’ first ever SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year this season. The sport and entertainment management major marries her strong GPA with even stronger work on the glass as she is fourth in school history in total rebounds and just two away from tying the career offensive rebounds record.

South Carolina leads the SEC and ranks ninth in the nation with 6.2 blocked shots per game. The effort is a continuation of last season, during which the Gamecocks shattered the school record for blocks in a season by 41, recording 240 over 34 games for a 7.1 average. This season, South Carolina has swatted double-digit shots five times, including three SEC games – 10 vs. Southern Cal, 10 vs. Kentucky, 10 at Georgia, 11 at Arkansas and a season-best 12 at Kentucky. Four Gamecocks rank among the SEC’s top 15 blockers, led by freshman A’ja Wilson in third at 1.7 per game, followed closely by sophomore Alaina Coates in fourth at 1.6 per game. Seniors Aleighsa Welch and Elem Ibiam are next in line with Welch swatting 1.1 per game for seventh and Ibiam rejecting 0.9 per game for 13th place.