Jan. 30, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. — No. 2/2 South Carolina kicks off a stretch of three straight games against top 15 opponents with a trip to No. 10/10 Texas A&M for a Sunday showdown at 6 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2. The Gamecocks (20-0, 8-0 SEC) look to continue a two-game win streak against the Aggies (15-5, 5-2 SEC) and remain the only undefeated team in SEC play. The two teams met two weeks ago at Colonial Life Arena with South Carolina pulling out a 59-58 win after a wild finish to the defensive battle.
- Tonight marks the second meeting between the Gamecocks and Aggies in the last two weeks. In South Carolina’s 59-58 victory, it held Texas A&M to just 36.8 percent shooting but saw a 43-33 rebounding advantage lead to 14 more field goal attempts for the Aggies.
- Four of the five games between South Carolina and Texas A&M have been decided by single digits with three settled by two or fewer points. Regularly a defensive battle, each team has scored at least 65 points only once — South Carolina’s 79 in a win on Jan. 26, 2015, and the Aggies’ 67 in their overtime win on Jan. 16, 2014.
- In their seven wins over ranked opponents this season, the Gamecocks are out-scoring their opponents 69.5-60.3 on efficient 42.5 percent field goal shooting, compared to 33.6 percent by their opponents.
- Junior Alaina Coates leads the SEC in rebounding both overall and in SEC play, and the 6-foot-5 center is doing it in fewer minutes than her nearest rivals. In SEC play, Coates averages 11.1 rebounds in just 27.8 minutes per game, far fewer than the 35.6 minutes per game than Georgia’s Shacobia Barbee uses to grab her 10.0 boards per game. Overall, Coates has more rebounds in fewer minutes than any of the league’s players averaging at least 9.0 boards. Behind 10 double-doubles this season, Coates averages an SEC-best 9.9 rebounds in 25.4 minutes per game, less than Evelyn Akhator (UK, 9.4 rpg, 26.8 mpg), A’ja Wilson (SC, 9.2 rpg, 26.1 mpg) and Barbee (GA, 9.2 rpg, 33.0 mpg).
- South Carolina’s leading scorers in SEC play — Tiffany Mitchell (16.1 ppg, 5th in SEC) and A’ja Wilson (14.4 ppg, 6th in SEC) — are also the league’s most efficient in terms of playing time. Mitchell scores a point for every 1.93 minutes on the court (249 min/129 pts), while Wilson adds a point every 1.87 minutes (215 min/115 pts). The league’s top three scorers are all also ranked among the league’s top eight in minutes per game.
By the Numbers
2 Gamecocks averaging a double-double against ranked opponents this season — A’ja Wilson (19.3 ppg/11.3 rpg) and Alaina Coates (10.3 ppg/10.3 rpg)
3 Stats in which sophomore forward A’ja Wilson ranks among the nation’s top 50 — blocks (10th), double-doubles (30th), FG percentage (43rd)
5 3-pointers needed by senior guard Tiffany Mitchell to move into the program’s career top five
20 Double-doubles by the Gamecocks this season, the most of any team in the league
Texas A&M Series Notes
The Aggies lead the series 3-2 with four of the five games decided by single digits, including all three of Texas A&M’s wins and this season’s one-point Gamecock victory. Both teams have been ranked in every meetings. Last season South Carolina’s depth and size wore down Texas A&M in a 79-61 win at Colonial Life Arena on Jan. 26, 2015. The top-ranked Gamecocks used aggressive defense to generate one big run in each half to distance the No. 12/10 Aggies while out-rebounding them 43-29. A’ja Wilson netted a game-high 18 points and nine rebounds, while Alaina Coates posted a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The Gamecocks have played seven games against ranked teams this season and have four more on the schedule, all coming in the next six outings. This season against ranked teams, South Carolina averages 69.4 points on 42.5 percent field goal shooting while holding its opponent to 60.3 points per game on 33.6 percent shooting. Sophomore forward A’ja Wilson leads the offense with 19.3 points per game to go with her 11.3 rebounds per outing. Junior center Alaina Coates also averages a double-double against ranked teams this season — 10.3 points, 10.3 rebounds. Senior guard Tiffany Mitchell adds 14.3 points per game against ranked opponents. After posting a 20-8 record against ranked opponents since the start of the 2013-14 season, head coach Dawn Staley has a 32-42 mark vs. the nation’s best teams during her South Carolina tenure, highlighted by a 20-8 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 last season’s 10 wins, five came against a top-10 foe.
Location, Location, Location
South Carolina averages 40.1 points in the paint this season, making up 52.8 percent of the Gamecocks’ offense. No opponent has out-scored South Carolina in the paint this season with the Gamecocks out-pacing their opponents in that space by 19.1 points per game. While the dominance abates slightly in SEC play, South Carolina’s inside advantage is just as significant against ranked opponents. The Gamecocks out-score their ranked foes in the paint by an average of 18.6 points with inside scoring accounting for 57.2 percent of the total offense in those seven games.
Six different Gamecocks have been the team’s high scorer in a game at least once, but often the high scorer has several teammates on her heels. In a constant search for balance, the Gamecocks’ top scorer in a game has accounted for less than one-third of the team’s points in all but six games. In SEC play, the balance of offense is more pronounced with four Gamecock averaging double figures in league play — Tiffany Mitchell 16.1 ppg, A’ja Wilson 14.4, Alaina Coates 10.6, Tina Roy 10.1 — with Khadijah Sessions not far behind with her often timely 7.6 points per game.
Quality vs. Quantity
While Tiffany Mitchell and Tina Roy are the highest scoring members of South Carolina’s senior class, point guard Khadijah Sessions has routinely delivered when the game is on the line, especially in SEC play. Sessions is shooting a career-best 50.6 percent from the field this season, including 55.6 percent in SEC play, during which she is 6-of-13 (.462) from 3-point range. She averages 7.6 points per league game while still averaging 2.1 assists and 2.0 steals. In the Gamecocks eight games that were within single digits with 5:00 remaining, Sessions is shooting 71.4 percent (5-of-7) in that time, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range. With the Gamecocks leading by one with 4:24 to go at Vanderbilt (Jan. 7), Sessions hit two 3-pointers over the next 2:00 to twice turn back the Commodores. In the final 2:34 against #15/11 Texas A&M (Jan. 17), she picked up a steal then delivered the game-winning free throw after forcing the action following a game-tying layup by the Aggies with :03 on the clock. At #10/10 Mississippi State, Sessions buried a pair of pull-up jumpers to turn back the Bulldogs, the second of which came in a two-point game with 30 seconds to play, setting up her fellow seniors for the game-clinching free throws.