Dec. 21, 2015
COLUMBIA, S.C. — No. 2/2 South Carolina closes out its pre-holiday schedule with a 7 p.m. tipoff against Elon on Tue., Dec. 22, at Colonial Life Arena. Head coaches Dawn Staley (South Carolina) and Charlotte Smith (Elon) spent six seasons as teammates on the WNBA’s Charlotte Sting after battling as ACC rivals playing for Virginia and North Carolina, respectively, for one season (1991-92). Prior to Tuesday’s game two of the Gamecocks’ 2014-15 seniors, Elem Ibiam and Aleighsa Welch, will receive their SEC championship and NCAA Final Four rings. Both were playing overseas when the rest of the team received its rings on Nov. 13.
- South Carolina’s offense has proven to get more efficient as the game goes on. On the season, the Gamecocks are shooting 42.7 percent in the first quarter, 46.4 in the second, 49.1 in the third and 50.3 percent in the fourth.
- In five home games, the Gamecocks average 83.6 points on 48.6 percent shooting.
- For the second-straight season, senior Asia Dozier has ceded her starting position at the start of the season only to work her way back in. Over the last three games, she averaged 8.3 points on 60.0% shooting (9-of-15), including 62.0% from 3-point range (5-of-8), and 2.7 assists.
Elon Series Notes
The Phoenix lead the series 2-1, but the Gamecocks have won the only other game played in the last 40 years in last season’s 77-44 decision in the 2014-15 season opener. Then-freshman Tiffany Mitchell drew the start in her first career college game, scoring nine points on 4-of-6 shooting and handing out three assists. Three members of Elon’s current senior class also played in that game — Lauren Hudson, Nicole Razor and Autumn Carter — all coming off the bench for a combined 13 minutes.
By the Numbers
3 Gamecocks ever to combine at least 1,500 points, 290 assists and 185 steals in their careers — Tiffany Mitchell, Shannon Johnson (1993-96) and Martha Parker (1986-89)
5 Of the top 10 attended NCAA Division I women’s games this season played at Colonial Life Arena
6 Double-doubles by sophomore forward A’ja Wilson, already surpassing her 2014-15 total
12 Games on South Carolina’s schedule against teams currently ranked in the top 25, including seven against the top 15
54.1 Percent of South Carolina’s points scored in the paint this season
76.1 Percent free throw shooting by South Carolina over the last three games
83.6 Points per home game scored by the Gamecocks this season in five outings
Home Sweet Home
The Gamecocks are riding a 39-game winning streak at Colonial Life Arena into today’s game — the longest active home win streak in the nation (pending the outcome of UConn’s game vs. LSU Monday night). 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.
The Gamecocks have played three games decided by single-digit points this season, two of which they trailed at halftime but came back to win. In those outings, offense has made the difference with the Gamecocks shooting 52.0 percent from the field in the fourth quarters of those three games. Of these three opponents, only Arizona State out-shot South Carolina in the fourth quarter (35.3-31.3) with the Gamecocks making up the difference at the free throw line and on the glass in the waning moments of the contest. Overall, South Carolina shoots much better in the second half (49.7 percent) than the first (43.6 percent) as opposing defenses begin to feel the effects of the Gamecocks’ frontcourt and pace of play. The buildup of offensive efficiency is steady throughout the game with South Carolina hitting 42.7 percent from the field in the first quarter, 46.4 percent in the second, 49.1 in the third and 50.3 percent in the fourth. Just eight of the 21 quarters in which the Gamecocks have shot at least 50 percent have come in the first half.
Free Throw Follies
South Carolina’s emphasis on interior play has the Gamecocks ranked eighth in the nation in free throw attempts (267) and 14th in free throws made (176). After hitting a rough stretch from a percentage standpoint, South Carolina has shot 76.1 percent (54-of-71) from the line over the last three games. Individually, two Gamecocks rank among the SEC’s best in free throw percentage — Tiffany Mitchell’s 82.0 percent in fourth and A’ja Wilson in 11th at 71.8 percent. Two others are making over 70 percent of their attempts but don’t meet the league minimum to be ranked — Bianca Cuevas at 73.0 percent (27-of-37) and Asia Dozier at 87.5 percent (7-of-8).
Junior center Alaina Coates has the size and skill to take over games against any opponent and continues to grow more comfortable in that role. With five double-11 this season, she is among the SEC top 20 in both scoring (17th, 13.0 ppt) and rebounding (4th, 9.1 rpg). Her .663 field goal percentage leads the league and ranks fifth in the nation. Her 2.1 blocks per game are second-best in the league as well. With 27 career double-doubles she is tied for seventh in program history in that category, just five shy of reaching the all-time top five. Ten of her double-doubles have come in SEC play, which rank her second in program history in that category, just one behind the school-record 11 by Marsha Williams (1992-93). The SEC’s active leader with 149 career blocks, Coates holds third place in South Carolina history in the category. She is just 28 shy of Lakesha Tolliver’s (2004-07) career record of 177.
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).
Back in the Spotlight
Senior guard/forward Asia Dozier returned to the starting lineup against Hampton (Dec. 16), once again working her way into the opening tipoff after selflessly yielding her spot to a teammate in the team’s best interest. The two-time team captain notably offered her starting role prior to the 2014-15 season, which head coach Dawn Staley gave to Alaina Coates for the first six games before deciding that the two players’ roles were better served in the reverse. This season, Dozier stepped aside for fellow-senior Tina Roy, who had been shooting well in the preseason and could provide more immediate offensive punch. Yet again, Dozier kept a good attitude and work ethic throughout, proving her value to her coach and team, and Staley reinserted her into the lineup eight games into the season. Dozier’s response has been outstanding, making key contributions over the last three games, during which she averaged 8.3 points on 60.0 percent shooting (9-of-15), including 5-of-8 (.620) from 3-point range, and 2.7 assists in 19.7 minutes.
The Senior Sessions
Named a team captain for the second time in three seasons, senior Khadijah Sessions has had a vice-like grip on the starting point guard spot for the Gamecocks over the last three seasons. After leading the team to back-to-back SEC regular-season championships and the program’s first NCAA Final Four during that stretch, the Myrtle Beach, S.C., native took the challenge of expanding her offensive game to force opposing defenses to honor her as a scoring threat, especially in a half-court set. Sessions has delivered so far, shooting a career-best 46.5 percent from the field this season. She has scored at least five points seven times through 11 games, including a pair of double-digit outings. In the Gamecocks’ last three home games, Sessions hit 6-of-10 from the field. Meanwhile, her assists (2.7 per game) and steals (1.9 per game) have remained on par with her previous two seasons’ averages.