Jan. 23, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. — No. 2/2 South Carolina continues its battle against SEC ranked opponents with another road trip, taking on No. 10/10 Mississippi State on Sun., Jan. 24, at 5 p.m. (ET) at Humphrey Coliseum. The Gamecocks (18-0, 6-0 SEC) have won the last six meetings between the two programs in what has been a defensive-minded series. South Carolina’s starting frontcourt of Alaina Coates and A’ja Wilson both average a double-double against ranked opponents this season, and the Gamecocks’ four-year seniors have been dominating SEC play so far this season.
- While six of the last nine games between South Carolina and Mississippi State have been decided by double figures, nearly every battle has been a defensive showcase. In the Dawn Staley era, the Gamecocks have averaged just 57.8 points against the Bulldogs, who have scored just 51.2 points per game in that stretch of the series as well. Only once has either team reached 70 points, and six times neither team scored over 60 points in the game with the Bulldogs winning three of those six.
- In the six games this season that were within 10 points in the final 5:00, the Gamecocks have shot 64.3 percent in the last five minutes. South Carolina’s frontcourt of junior Alaina Coates and sophomore A’ja Wilson has dominated the waning moments of those games, scoring 43 of the 73 points and shooting a combined 18-of-23 (.783).
- Forward A’ja Wilson averages 21.5 points and 11.3 rebounds per game against ranked opponents this season, up from 11.3 ppg and 6.7 rpg last season.
- South Carolina’s four-year seniors — Asia Dozier, Tiffany Mitchell, Tina Roy and Khadijah Sessions — average a combined 34.5 points per SEC game, which is up from their 28.5 points per non-conference game. The increase is speaks to the group’s experience as much as to the Gamecocks’ better offensive balance in league play.
- Junior center Alaina Coates is one of two players averaging a double-double in SEC games this season, posting 11.0 points and 10.7 rebounds per contest. She has grabbed double-digit rebounds in nine of her last 10 games, including every SEC contest.
- With four steals against Texas A&M (Jan. 17), Tiffany Mitchell became just the third Gamecock in history to record at least 1,600 points, 300 assists and 200 steals in her career.
- Khadijah Sessions has been rock solid in SEC play, averaging 7.8 points on 57.7 percent shooting, including 60.0 percent (6-of-10) from 3-point range, while also averaging 1.8 assists and 2.3 steals.
By the Numbers
2 Gamecocks averaging a double-double against ranked opponents this season — A’ja Wilson (21.5 ppg/11.3 rpg), Alaina Coates (11.0 ppg/10.2 rpg)
4 Gamecocks who rank among the SEC’s top 30 scorers in league play
14 Times South Carolina has shot over 50.0 percent in the fourth quarter, including five of six SEC games
64.3 Percent shooting by South Carolina in the final 5:00 of games that are within 10 points during that time, compared to 34.6 percent by its opponents
Mississippi State Series Notes
The Bulldogs hold a narrow 16-15 edge over the Gamecocks in the all-time series after South Carolina won the last six meetings, including three at the Hump. Mississippi State’s last win in the series was a 55-53 decision at Colonial Life Arena on Feb. 11, 2010. The last meeting was the first in which both teams were nationally ranked since the 2003 SEC Tournament as the Gamecocks brought a No. 2 ranking into the contest against the then-No. 11 Bulldogs on Feb. 26, 2015, in Columbia. The home crowd of over 15,000 powered the Gamecocks to a 13-point halftime lead on Senior Day with South Carolina clinching a share of the SEC regular-season title with a 69-50 victory that featured Tiffany Mitchell (16), A’ja Wilson (13) and Alaina Coates (10) each scored in double figures. Mitchell netted 14 of her 16 points in the first half. Gamecock senior Khadijah Sessions has also had success against the Bulldogs, averaging 8.8 points on 60.0 percent shooting in her four outings.
Head coach Dawn Staley is often thought of as a defensive coach, but she has steadily built an efficient offensive team over the last few seasons, culminating in the 2014-15 squad’s 75.9 points per game (fourth-best in program history and the first new entry in the top five since 1993-94) on 48.4 percent shooting. That group ranked 18th in the nation in scoring and fourth in field goal percentage. This season, the Gamecocks are 23rd in the nation in scoring average and 12th in field goal percentage.
South Carolina has been a defensive juggernaut under head coach Dawn Staley, ranking among the nation’s top 30 in scoring defense for the last five seasons, including three seasons among the top 10. While the Gamecock offense has grown, the attention to defense has not with opponent field goal percentage ranking among the nation’s top 15 each of the last three seasons. This season, South Carolina has held its opponents to just 55.5 points per game on 33.8 percent shooting to rank 28th and 14th in the nation, respectively. The Gamecocks have yielded over 65 points just two times this season, and only three opponents have shot at least 40.0 percent against South Carolina with none hitting 45.0 percent.
Power of 3s
With such a notable frontcourt, South Carolina’s outside shooting is an often overlooked but formidable weapon. It has been on full display in SEC action, during with the Gamecocks are shooting a league-high 36.4 percent from outside the arc and making 6.5 3s per game. For the season, South Carolina averages 5.6 made 3s, the highest average since the 2002-03 squad made 6.1 per game. Senior Tina Roy has been the Gamecocks’ premier long-range shooter and leads the SEC with 3.3 per game and 47.6 percent (20-of-42) accuracy in league play. She has made at least four 3-pointers in four of the team’s six SEC games so far this season.
South Carolina’s four four-year seniors — Asia Dozier, Tiffany Mitchell, Tina Roy, Khadijah Sessions — have been a huge part of the Gamecocks’ undefeated record, especially since SEC play began. After accounting for 36.5 percent of South Carolina’s offense in non-conference play, the quartet averages 34.5 points per SEC game to make up 46.5 percent of the Gamecocks’ league-best 74.2 points per game.