Nov. 5, 2015
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COLUMBIA, S.C. — No. 2/2 South Carolina takes the court at Colonial Life Arena for the first time in the 2015-16 season Friday night in an exhibition game against Newberry College. The Gamecocks bring a veteran team back from last season’s NCAA Final Four appearance, led by three of ESPN’s top 12 players in the nation in junior center Alaina Coates, senior guard Tiffany Mitchell and sophomore forward A’ja Wilson.
South Carolina is coming off its most successful season, winning a school-record 34 games and advancing to the NCAA Final Four for the first time. The Gamecocks also won their first SEC Tournament title in their first appearance in the championship game. Scoring 75.9 points per game, South Carolina ranked 18th in the nation in scoring while maintaining its defensive presence at 12th in the nation, allowing just 54.1 points per game. The Gamecocks’ .484 field goal percentage was fourth-best in the nation, and they also ranked among the nation’s top 10 in scoring margin (+21.7, 3rd), field goal percentage defense (.349, 10th), rebound margin (+9.6, 10th) and blocked shots (6.3, 7th).
Back in (Garnet and) Black
Among South Carolina’s 11 returning letterwinners are last season’s three highest scorers, two best rebounders, top two 3-point shooters, two best assist producers and top two shot blockers. Three of the five seniors on the roster have started a majority of their Gamecock careers. The offense returns 77.9 percent of its points from last season, and the team brings back 72.9 percent of its rebounds.
The Gamecocks added four new names to their roster, and Doniyah Cliney is eligible to play this season as well. Two of the newcomers — Kaela Davis (Georgia Tech) and Allisha Gray (North Carolina) — will have to sit out due to transfer rules, but the two All-ACC selections will have an impact in practice. Senior transfer Sarah Imovbioh averaged a double-double last season at Virginia and will help the Gamecocks’ rebounding effort. Freshman guard Shay Colley has impressed with her ability to learn quickly and keep a steady demeanor through the process.
The Gamecocks will play 10 games against teams ranked in the preseason top 25, including five games set for Colonial Life Arena. Four SEC rivals account for six of the 10 games as the Gamecocks have home-and-home series against both No. 16 Texas A&M and No. 17 Kentucky while traveling to No. 4 Tennessee and No. 13 Mississippi State. Ranked non-conference matchups on the slate this season include No. 1 Connecticut, No. 10 Ohio State, No. 12 Duke and No. 14 Arizona State.
South Carolina enjoyed the top average attendance in the nation last season, and Gamecock fans have again pushed the program beyond its previous heights with over 11,000 season tickets distributed. Only single-game tickets remain available.