Dec. 11, 2015
COLUMBIA, S.C. — No. 2/2 South Carolina continues its “home for the holidays” stretch on Sun., Dec. 13, hosting Winthrop at Colonial Life Arena in a 2 p.m. tipoff on SEC Network. The Gamecocks are in the midst of a three-game home stand and do not leave the state of South Carolina in the month of December after playing five of their first seven games on the road. The last time the Gamecocks (8-0) and Eagles (2-6) met, South Carolina claimed an eight-point victory in Columbia on Dec. 20, 2014.
- South Carolina sophomore forward A’ja Wilson earned SEC Player of the Week honors for the third time in four weeks this season for her effort in the Gamecocks’ 66-55 win over #14/13 Duke last Sunday. She posted her fifth double-double of the season in the game — matching her 2014-15 season total — and scored 20 of her points in the second half to repeatedly turn away the Blue Devils.
- Entering today’s game, 46,851 fans have come through the doors at Colonial Life Arena for a women’s basketball game this season. That number is second-highest in the nation, despite the fact that the Gamecocks have hosted just three games in the building, compared to the eight hosted by first-place Tennessee (76,792). South Carolina’s 15,617 average leads the nation by more than 3,000 over second-place Louisville.
- The SEC released its active career leaders in seven categories this week, and senior guard Tiffany Mitchell is the only player to rank among the top 10 in six of them (lacking only blocked shots). The Charlotte, N.C., native is second in points (1,469) and steals (184), third in field goals made (494) and 3-point field goals made (131), fourth in assists (293) and eighth in rebounds (497). Mitchell is the highest ranking guard in career rebounds and one of just two true guards on the list (Morgan Batey, Vanderbilt).
Winthrop Series Notes
The Gamecocks lead the series 7-5 after winning the last five matchups. South Carolina is a perfect 6-0 against the Eagles in Columbia. The most recent meeting was a hard-fought 69-61 Gamecock victory at Colonial life Arena on Dec. 20, 2013. In a noon tipoff to welcome area school children, then-No. 10 South Carolina stormed out to a 37-23 halftime lead then held off Winthrop’s hot shooting in the second half. Then-sophomore Tiffany Mitchell led all scorers with 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including 4-of-5 from 3-point range. For Winthrop, then-freshman Erica Williams tied for team-high honors with 19 points in 40 minutes of play.
Home Sweet Home
The Gamecocks are riding a 37-game winning streak at Colonial Life Arena into today’s game — the second-longest active home win streak in the nation (trailing UConn’s 38 and leading Maryland’s 29). South Carolina turned in back-to-back perfect seasons, going 16-0 at home in 2013-14 and 2014-15. The Gamecocks’ last loss at Colonial Life Arena was a 50-48 decision to No. 14 Texas A&M on Feb. 10, 2013.
Strength in Numbers
Based on cumulative opponent winning percentage, South Carolina currently has the 34th toughest schedule in the nation. The 26 teams the Gamecocks will face this season have a current winning percentage of .660. Of the 15 undefeated teams, South Carolina has had the seventh-hardest road to its wins as its eight foes have a .527 winning percentage. With just three home games so far this season, the Gamecocks are sixth in RPI, the highest in the SEC. Kentucky (12) and Georgia (14) are the other SEC schools among the top 25. Five others — Missouri, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Florida and Auburn — are in the top 50.
Through 32 quarters so far this season, South Carolina has out-scored its opponent 23 times with the Gamecocks topping their foe by double digits seven times, including a season-high 19 (27-8) in the third quarter at Clemson (Nov. 18). This season’s best first-quarter differential was 13 (27-15) vs. CSU Bakersfield (Nov. 28), second-quarter advantage 17 (26-9) against UNCG (Nov. 15) and fourth-quarter edge 12 (26-14) vs. CSUB. South Carolina has shot at least 50.0 percent in 14 quarters this season with a high of 75.0 percent (9-of-12) in the third quarter at Clemson. Defensively, of the 10 lowest shooting percentage quarters for opposing teams six have been in the second half, including the three lowest and the season-low 17.6 percent (3-of-17) shot by UNCG in the third quarter. Individually, sophomore forward A’ja Wilson has turned in the top four quarter point totals for South Carolina, netting double digits in all four led by her 12 in the fourth quarter against #6/10 Ohio State (Nov. 13) and in the third quarter against #14/13 Duke (Dec. 6). Senior guard Tiffany Mitchell has the highest first-quarter scoring total with nine against CSUB (Nov. 28). Wilson’s 11 against UNCG (Nov. 15) are the team’s best second-quarter production.
Experts have their eye on three Gamecocks in the running for national player of the year honors — senior guard Tiffany Mitchell, junior center Alaina Coates and sophomore forward A’ja Wilson. South Carolina is in elite company with that many players in the running. Most recently, the trio appeared on the Naismith Early Season Watch List, which included the 50 best players in the nation. South Carolina was one of three teams with three entries. The USBWA announced its 20-member watch list for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award, which included Mitchell and Wilson, putting South Carolina among just three programs with multiple players recognized. The Wooden Award got the streak going, announcing it’s 30-player watch list, which featured all the Gamecocks. South Carolina joined UConn as the only schools with three players selected.
SEC Active Leaders
The SEC compiled its active leaders in seven statistical categories this week, and six different Gamecocks are among the top 10 in at least one category. Senior Tiffany Mitchell’s league-high six entries is not a surprise given the breadth of her resume, but the appearance of sophomore A’ja Wilson at No. 4 on the active blocked shots list, which junior Alaina Coates leads, may catch some observers off guard. Mitchell headlines the South Carolina entries ranking second in scoring (1,469) and steals (184), third in field goals made (494) and 3-pointers made (131), fourth in assists (283) and eighth in rebounding (497). She is the highest-ranking guard on the rebounding list, which includes just one other true perimeter player. Senior Khadijah Sessions holds seventh in steals (136) and eighth in assists (237). Seniors Tina Roy and Asia Dozier are on the 3-pointers made list, coming in at sixth (111) and 10th (81), respectively. Junior Alaina Coates is the league’s active leader in blocks (136), sits third in rebounds (627) and ninth in scoring (898).