Feb. 10, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. — The SEC’s top two offenses square off on Thursday night as No. 2/2 South Carolina hosts No. 16/19 Florida at 7 p.m. at Colonial Life Arena. The Gamecocks (22-1, 10-0 SEC) are looking for their school record tying 10th win against a ranked opponent this season, while the Gators (19-4, 7-3 SEC) attempt their first win over the Gamecocks since 2011.
- In the Dawn Staley era, South Carolina and Florida have often squared off in more defensive battles with the Gamecocks’ 77 points in last season’s win the outlier of the series recently. In the 10 games of the Staley era, South Carolina has averaged 62.4 points to the Gators’ 58.2, which includes scoring 77 and 82 to points in the first two games of the series. Five of the 10 games have been decided by single digits, and at least one of the teams scored fewer that 60 points seven times, including three games in which neither team hit that mark.
- Today’s game pits the SEC’s top two offenses against each other as Florida’s 81.0 ppg leads the league ahead of South Carolina’s 74.8 ppg. In conference games, the positions are reversed with the Gamecocks’ league-best 73.1 ppg leading Florida’s 72.6 ppg. Defensively, South Carolina holds the edge in both, allowing 56.9 ppg overall and 57.3 in SEC action to rank fourth in both. Florida yields 68.5 ppg on the season and 70.0 ppg in league action to rank 14th in both.
- The Gamecocks have won 39 of their last 42 SEC games dating back to the 2013-14 season, and South Carolina has won 23 straight SEC games at home. The program’s last SEC loss at Colonial Life Arena was a 48-50 result against Texas A&M on Feb. 10, 2013.
- South Carolina has been atop the SEC standings throughout the season as one of three teams in the league play six games against a ranked league foe in the opening five weeks of the season. Georgia and Arkansas have also played six games against a ranked SEC team, doing so in 11 games. Today’s game is the Gamecocks’ seventh vs. a ranked league opponent in 11 outings.
- Three Gamecocks rank among the SEC’s top 12 scorers in SEC play this season (Coates, Mitchell, Wilson). Auburn is the only other team with multiple entries in the top 15.
- The Gamecocks have shot 72.4 percent from the free throw line over the last four games and 66.7 percent in the last five. South Carolina is shooting 65.4 percent for the season.
By the Numbers
1 Rebound needed by Alaina Coates to become just the second Gamecock ever to record 1,000 career points and 800 rebounds prior to her senior season (Sheila Foster, 1979-82) — Coates will be the 10th in program history to hit both marks during her career
3 Points needed by senior guard Tiffany Mitchell to become the eighth Gamecock all-time to reach 1,700 career points
6 Of South Carolina’s 10 SEC games that have been against a nationally ranked team, including three top-10 matchups
55.9 Percent shooting by the Gamecocks in the final 5:00 of SEC games within single digits at that time, including 57.1 from 3-point range
Florida Series Notes
The Gators lead the series 20-14, but the Gamecocks have won the last six and are 6-4 against Florida in the Dawn Staley era, including a 3-2 record at home. Prior to last season’s commanding victory for then-No. 1 South Carolina, the middle years of the Staley era saw close games between the two teams with single digits separating the teams in three of the Gamecocks’ wins and two of their losses. Last season’s 77-42 South Carolina victory in Gainesville (Jan. 19) came via 59.3 percent field goal shooting, including 68.0 percent in the first half, for the Gamecocks, who held the Gators to just 27.1 percent from the field. Tiffany Mitchell led all scorers with 18 points on an efficient 8-of-10 shooting, and she added four steals as well. Then-freshman guard Bianca Cuevas gave Florida fits en route to 11 points and four assists in just 19 minutes of action. South Carolina dominated the paint with a variety of weapons, out-scoring Florida inside 46-26.
SEC Title Talk
The media and league coaches picked the Gamecocks to repeat as SEC champions this season. After winning its first SEC regular-season championship in 2013-14, South Carolina shared the title last season. If the prediction holds, the Gamecocks would become just the third team to win three straight regular-season championships in league history, joining Tennessee (2000-2004, 1993-1995) and Auburn (1987-89).
Led by arguably among the best frontcourts in the nation, South Carolina leads the country with 23.8 free throw attempts per game. The Gamecocks’ 547 total attempts is second in the nation behind SIUE’s 559 in 24 games. South Carolina’s 358 made free throws are eighth in the nation. The Gamecocks are shooting 65.4 percent from the free throw line — a number that has been steadily on the rise recently after hitting 72.4 percent in the last three games and 66.7 percent in the last five. This season, South Carolina has outscored its opponent on the free throw line 19 times, including eight SEC games. The Gamecocks have made at least 20 free throws five times this season — 23 vs. #6/10 Ohio State (Nov. 13), 21 vs. East Carolina (Dec. 20), 32 vs. #20/- Missouri (Jan. 10), 20 at #10/10 Texas A&M (Jan. 31), 24 vs. #18/18 Kentucky (Feb. 4).
Senior guard Tiffany Mitchell’s ability to take over games has powered the Gamecocks to some of their most dynamic victories, but her impact has never been limited to the big moments or to the offensive end. The Charlotte, N.C., native’s greatness is felt in every possession of every game, and this season’s SEC numbers back that up. In league play, Mitchell ranks among the league’s top 10 in five categories and comes in 12th in another. Her 15.1 points per league game are sixth in the league as are her 2.0 steals per game. She is fourth in field goal percentage (.427) and third in free throw percentage (.814), and her 1.4 made 3s per game rank 10th. Mitchell is 12th with 2.8 assists per game.