Jan. 13, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. — No. 2/2 South Carolina heads to Memorial Coliseum for a top-10 showdown at No. 9/9 Kentucky on Thu., Jan. 14, at 7 p.m. on SEC Network. Each team boasts a post player averaging a double-double in SEC play in Alaina Coates for the Gamecocks (15-0, 3-0 SEC) and Alexis Jennings for the Wildcats (13-1, 2-1 SEC). South Carolina is undefeated in three league games so far, winning each with a different weapon as hot outside shooting opened conference play, two-time SEC Player of the Year Tiffany Mitchell powered home a road win and the defense was the star in Sunday’s outing.
- Tonight’s game is the Gamecocks’ second of three straight against ranked opponents. South Carolina will face a ranked foe in three of its next four games with just one of those coming at home.
- The Gamecocks are 6-9 against the Wildcats in the Dawn Staley era (2008-09 to present), including just one win in seven visits to Memorial Coliseum. That one win was a decisive one, though, with then-No. 4 South Carolina overwhelming then-No. 15 Kentucky 81-58 on Feb. 20, 2014. In the last three seasons, during which both teams have ranked among the nation’s top 20 for each meeting, the Gamecocks are 4-3 against the Wildcats with four of the seven games decided by single digits ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬” three of those in South Carolina’s favor.
- Four SEC players average a double-double in league play this season, and two of them will take the court tonight ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬” South Carolina’s Alaina Coates (11.7 ppg/10.7 rpg) and Kentucky’s Alexis Jennings (11.3 ppg/11.0 rpg).
- In league play, South Carolina leads the SEC in nine different stats, including those centering on offensive and defensive efficiency ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬” scoring, field goal percentage, scoring defense and field goal percentage defense.
- Two-time SEC Player of the Year Tiffany Mitchell has been back in stride with her all-around game in 2016, ranking among the SEC’s top 15 in league play in eight of 10 primary stats (excludes offensive and defensive rebounding and minutes per game). Mitchell is top 10 in seven of the eight and misses a ranking in just rebounding and blocked shots. No other SEC player is ranked in more than six stats.
- Besides Tiffany Mitchell, five other Gamecocks rank among the league’s top 15 in at least one stat in SEC play ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬” Bianca Cuevas (steals) Alaina Coates (points, rebounds), Tina Roy (points, 3FG %age, 3FG/game), Khadijah Sessions (steals, 3FG/game) and A’ja Wilson (rebounds, blocks).
- South Carolina has ramped up its defense in 2016, allowing just 50.3 points per game on 32.1 percent shooting vs. 55.8 ppg on 33.5 percent shooting in 2015.
By the Numbers
0 Games this season in which the same Gamecock was the top scorer in each quarter
3 Stats in which sophomore forward A’ja Wilson ranks among the nation’s top 50 ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬” double-doubles (18th), blocks (20th) and field goal percentage (50th)
5 League-play stats in which senior guard Tiffany Mitchell ranks among the SEC’s top five ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬” helping make up her league-best eight categories among the top 15
9 Games in which junior center Alaina Coates has shot over 70.0 percent from the field
Kentucky Series Notes
In what has become a heated rivalry over the last few seasons, Kentucky leads the series 33-22, including a 20-6 edge in Lexington. The gap closes to a 9-6 Kentucky advantage in South Carolina’s Dawn Staley era with the Gamecocks holding a 4-3 edge in the last three seasons, during which four of the seven games were decided by single-digit points. The teams split their home-and-home series two of the last three seasons with the Gamecocks sweeping the regular-season meetings in 2013-14, which Kentucky avenged with a win in the 2014 SEC Tournament semifinals. South Carolina and Kentucky were both ranked in the AP top 10 in two previous meetings in the series, both of which went the Gamecocks’ way in Columbia.
The Gamecocks have 13 games on the schedule against teams currently ranked in the top 25. South Carolina opened the season with a win over No. 6/10 Ohio State (Nov. 13, 88-80), following that with victories over No. 16/18 Arizona State (Nov. 27, 60-58) and No. 14/13 Duke (Dec. 6, 66-55) in non-conference action and one over No. 20/- Missouri (Jan. 10, 83-58). After posting an 18-8 record against ranked opponents since the start of the 2013-14 season, head coach Dawn Staley has a 29-42 mark vs. the nation’s best teams during her South Carolina tenure, highlighted by a 17-8 mark when the Gamecocks carry a better ranking than their opponent into the contest. South Carolina’s 10 wins against ranked foes in 2014-15 set a program record, topping the eight wins of the 1979-80 squad. Of those wins, five came against a top-10 foe.
Head coach Dawn Staley has compiled an arsenal of offensive weapons that keeps growing throughout the season with no one Gamecock dominating the stat line, especially on offense. While nine different Gamecocks have been the team’s top scorer in at least one quarter this season, no Gamecock has led the team in scoring for all four quarters of a game. A single player has topped the team in three quarters just five times ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬” Alaina Coates (Winthrop), Tiffany Mitchell (at Clemson, at Vandy) and A’ja Wilson (vs. CSUB, Duke).
New Year, Old Tiffany
Senior guard Tiffany Mitchell is back to her All-American ways in 2016 after recovery from offseason surgery limited her efficiency in non-conference action. Still averaging double-figure points as the team’s second-leading scorer in non-conference play, Mitchell was not on all-around great form through the season’s first 12 games. With the calendar now reading 2016 and SEC play in full cry, Mitchell has immediate re-inserted herself into SEC Player of the Year contention for her raw numbers as well as her impact on big games. Mitchell is among the SEC’s top 15 in eight of 10 primary stats, which is two more than any other player in the league, missing out on just rebounds and blocked shots. Her numbers have not grown idly either as she has taken charge of games at key moments for her team, much the way she has her last two SEC Player of the Year campaigns. Mitchell scored seven points during a key 10-3 third-quarter run at Vanderbilt (Jan. 7) then added seven of the team’s first eight points in the fourth quarter to hold off the Commodores, adding a drive and dish for a Khadijah Sessions 3-pointer and a defensive rebound in the final minute to close out the win. Against No. 20/- Missouri (Jan. 10), she hit a transition layup, a 3-pointer from the left corner and converted a steal into a layup after the Tigers had opened the third quarter on a 12-4 run.