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April 2, 2015


South Carolina Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader | Ticket Info | Tampa Fan Events | NCAA Tournament Bracket

Game Information

Opponent: #2/2 Notre Dame (35-2, 15-1 ACC)
Site: Tampa, Florida
Arena: Amalie Arena
Broadcast: ESPN; via WatchESPN (Dave O’Brien, pxp; Doris Burke, analyst; Holly Rowe, sideline)
Radio: 107.5 The Game (Brad Muller)
Live Stats:

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 four NCAA Tournaments, including three trips to the Sweet 16 (2012, 2014, 2015) and one Final Four (2015), and won the program’s first SEC Tournament title this season. The Gamecocks have spent 30 straight weeks ranked in the AP top 10, highlighted by 12 weeks at No. 1 this season.
  • South Carolina’s offense ranks 16th in the nation with 76.2 points per game and fourth in field goal percentage at .485. Both are the highest numbers of the Staley era, and the Gamecocks have shot 40.0 percent or better 29 times in 36 games this season, including 17 games of at least 50.0 percent accuracy. In NCAA Tournament action, South Carolina is shooting 56.3 percent, the best accuracy of any team in the event.
  • Consistently one of the top defensive teams in the nation, South Carolina is 11th in the country in scoring defense, allowing 53.8 points per game while holding opponents to just 34.7 percent shooting (sixth in the nation). Just four opponents have scored more than 65 points and 15 failed to surpass 50 points. The Gamecocks have limited an opponent to less than 30.0 percent shooting eight times.
  • The Gamecocks are 15th in the nation with an SEC-best 16.8 assists per game, a number that rises to 17.8 in NCAA Tournament play. Junior Tiffany Mitchell leads the way with 5.0 assists per game in the event, while junior Asia Dozier is averaging 3.3.
  • The Gamecock offense is a delicate balance of power. South Carolina is 33-0 when out-scoring opponents in the paint with 17 games of at least half its total points coming in the paint for a 39.1 average. Not a single-strength team, however, the Gamecocks average 4.9 3s per game and lead the SEC with 35.5 percent shooting beyond the arc, which includes 18 games making more than one-third of their attempts.
  • South Carolina’s bench is among the most productive in the nation, accounting for 48.7 percent of the team’s 76.2 points per game (37.1 ppg). The group has tied or out-scored its starting counterparts 21 times, including all four NCAA Tournament games.
  • South Carolina has out-rebounded its opponent 31 times this season with a 30-1 record in those games, including six postseason contests and 15 SEC regular-season outings (tied at Kentucky, Mar. 1).
  • The Gamecocks are 10-2 against ranked opponents this season, the most such wins in program history, and the wins have come largely on the backs of South Carolina’s veterans. Senior Aleighsa Welch averages 9.6 points and 8.1 rebounds against ranked opponents, compared to 8.8 points and 5.4 rebounds the rest of the season. Similarly, junior Tiffany Mitchell’s scoring average is 15.8 against ranked teams compared to 13.8 in the other 24 games this season, and her assist average jumps from 2.7 to 3.4.
  • A Second-Team All-SEC selection, sophomore center Alaina Coates earned Greensboro Regional MOP honors after averaging 16.0 points on 62.5 percent shooting over the two games that put the Gamecocks into the Final Four.
  • SEC Player of the Year Tiffany Mitchell, who is a finalist for all three national player of the year awards, fully displayed her versatility in the Gamecocks’ two wins in the Greensboro Regional, shooting 53.8 percent for 19.5 points per game to go with averages of 4.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals. Her final three minutes against Florida State included an assist, layup and 3-pointer all off the same play, an offensive rebound and a pair of free throws to put South Carolina up by five with 27 seconds to go.
  • SEC Freshman of the Year A’ja Wilson is second on the team lead with 28 double-digit scoring games, including four of 20+ points, to average 12.9 points per game on 53.1 percent field goal shooting. She is hitting 63.6 percent (14-of-22) from the field in NCAA Tournament action for 10.5 points per game.
  • SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year Aleighsa Welch has posted four double-doubles in the last 14 games. She is the program’s record holder with 440 career offensive rebounds, ranking third in total rebounds, and one of just four Gamecocks all-time to amass 1,000 points and 900 rebounds in her career. Welch is the emotional leader of the team whose great communication skills are South Carolina’s rudder.


A South Carolina Win Would…

  • Make head coach Dawn Staley just the third African-American head coach in the national championship game, joining Vivian Stringer (Cheyney, 1982; Rutgers, 2007) and Carolyn Peck (Purdue, 1999)
  • Be the Gamecocks’ first over Notre Dame in the Staley era.
  • Make Staley just the second woman to participate in an NCAA national championship game as a head coach and a player (Virginia, 1991).

By the Numbers
Gamecock ever to be a finalist for all three national player of the year awards – Tiffany Mitchell
4 Gamecocks shooting over 60.0 percent from the field in NCAA Tournament action, led by Alaina Coates at 69.0 percent
5 Come-from-behind victories by South Carolina this season, which is 5-2 when trailing at halftime
7 Postseason games in which South Carolina shot at least 40.0 percent from the field, including four games of at least 50.0 percent accuracy
10 Wins against ranked opponents this season, the most in school history
11 Games in which South Carolina has assisted on at least 2/3 of its field goals, including two of four NCAA Tournament games
14.5 Points per NCAA Tournament game this season by sophomore center Alaina Coates, who entered the event averaging 10.6 points
17 Games in which the Gamecocks have scored at least half their points in the paint, including nine of at least 60.0 percent
56.3 Percent shooting by South Carolina in the NCAA Tournament, which entered the event already among the nation’s top 10 at 47.7 percent
76.8 Percent free throw shooting by the Gamecocks in the last 5:00 of close games (less than 10 points in final 5:00), compared to 67.2 percent otherwise

Notre Dame Series Notes
The Gamecocks hold a 2-1 edge in the all-time series with the Fighting Irish with the last meeting coming on Nov. 27, 2009, in the Paradise Jam in the second season of the Dawn Staley era. Ranked No. 5 in the nation at the time, Notre Dame claimed a 78-55 victory. South Carolina’s wins in the series came in the early 1980s.

Tournament Reinforcements
Although a handful of Gamecocks have captured the spotlight, South Carolina’s historic NCAA Tournament success this season has been a full team effort. While opponents can scout the Gamecocks’ primary contributors, knowing which less heralded member of South Carolina’s roster will change the game is far more difficult to discern. Second-Team All-SEC selection Alaina Coates is the most notable member of this group, lifting her scoring average from 10.6 to 14.5 points per game in the NCAA Tournament while shooting 69.0 percent from the field. Four other Gamecocks have made significant contributions to the team’s four NCAA Tournament wins. Senior Olivia Gaines has been known for her aggressive, high-energy defense, which can change the speed of the game quickly. In this year’s NCAA Tournament, she has delivered timely shots as well, lifting her scoring average from 1.4 to 3.8 behind 66.7 percent shooting. Her most heroic effort came in 23 seconds late in the regional semifinal against #15/12 North Carolina, during which she was fouled, missed her free throw, grabbed the offensive rebound and hit a 3-pointer that tied the game with 1:01 to play. Junior guard Asia Dozier has never had a gaudy stat line, but the Gamecocks can count on her to make big plays when they’re needed most. Entering the tournament with a 3.8 scoring average, she is scoring 6.5 points per NCAA Tournament game on 66.7 percent shooting, including 6-of-9 from 3-point range. Her three 3-pointers in the opening five minutes against Syracuse forced the Orange to stretch out their sagging zone, freeing the Gamecocks’ inside game. Dozier went on to hit all four free throws to seal the regional final win over #7/7 Florida State after entering the game hitting 6-of-9 from the stripe this season. Freshman guard Bianca Cuevas is the latest unsuspecting catalyst as she shook off a tough finish to the regular season and averages 7.8 points on 52.4 percent shooting in the NCAA Tournament, compared to her 5.4 scoring average and .363 field goal percentage prior to the event. She scored nine points in nine minutes against #7/7 Florida State in the regional finals, routinely slicing through the lane late in the first half as the Gamecocks rallied from a nine-point deficit.

Ranked Readings
South Carolina’s 10 wins against ranked foes this season is a new program record, topping the eight wins of the 1979-80 squad. In all the Gamecocks have played 12 ranked opponents this season with a 10-2 record against such foes, including a 4-0 mark in neutral-site games. The Gamecocks are 75-218 all-time against ranked teams with a 25-41 record in the Dawn Staley era. Under Staley, South Carolina is 9-16 against ranked opponents at Colonial Life Arena, 9-14 on the road and 7-11 at neutral sites. Tonight marks this season’s seventh game against a top-10 opponent, during which the Gamecocks are 5-1, and the third against a top-five foe, against whom South Carolina is 1-1.

Rise to the Challenge
Against the toughest opponents, a team’s biggest stars have to shine brightest, and the Gamecock tandem of Tiffany Mitchell and Aleighsa Welch do just that. In 12 games against nationally ranked opponents this season, both significantly lifted the averages of their key stats. Welch has shown great leadership in developing younger talent the last two seasons, including Mitchell last season, but has always been able to seize the moment when needed. That is most evident in the increase in her rebounding numbers from 5.4 per game in 24 outings against unranked opponents to 8.5 in 12 games against ranked foes. Similarly her scoring averages rises from 8.8 to 9.6. Mitchell is best known for her offensive contributions, and her scoring and assist numbers only increased against ranked opponents. Averaging 13.8 points against unranked teams this season, she pours in 15.8 points per game against ranked foes. The added points have not diminished her distribution skills as she hands out 3.4 assists per game against ranked teams compared to 2.7 per game against unranked foes.