Feb. 14, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 2/2 South Carolina faces its fifth-straight nationally ranked opponent and its seventh in the last nine games when the Gamecocks (23-1, 11-0 SEC) travel to No. 25/- Tennessee for a Monday night tilt at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. The Gamecocks and Lady Vols shared the 2015 SEC regular-season title, but the Tennessee (15-9, 6-5 SEC) will be looking to avenge back-to-back losses to South Carolina, including the 62-46 decision that delivered the Gamecocks’ first ever SEC Tournament championship.
- As it has with most SEC programs, Tennessee has dominated the overall series with South Carolina, but the Gamecocks have recorded three wins in the last five seasons, including both meetings in 2014-15. That sweep marked just the eighth time the Lady Vols had lost back-to-back meetings with an SEC foe. The same team has defeated Tennessee in at least three straight meetings just three times — none since the 1986-87 season.
- South Carolina has been ranked in the AP top five for 37 straight weeks. Since 2014, only UConn (53) and Notre Dame (49) have been in the AP top five more times. (Does not include rankings to be released 2/15.)
- With Thursday’s win over Florida, the Gamecocks tied the school record of 10 wins against ranked opponents in a season. Seven of those 10 wins have come in SEC play, and four of them have been against top-10 foes.
- In the last five games, South Carolina has assisted on 62.8 percent of its made field goals. The season percentage has been steadily on the rise, currently standing at 54.9 percent, including 59.8 percent in SEC play.
- South Carolina was one of two programs to land three entries on the Naismith Trophy Midseason Watch List, announced last week. Alaina Coates, Tiffany Mitchell and A’ja Wilson were all named by the organization. Mitchell and Wilson are also on the Wooden Award and USBWA Ann Meyers Drysdale Award midseason lists.
- For the second-straight season, senior guard Tiffany Mitchell was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District 4 First Team. The retail management major has been on the University President’s List, which recognizes students with a 4.0 GPA, each of the last two semesters.
- South Carolina’s starting frontcourt of A’ja Wilson and Alaina Coates quite literally impact the almost every minute they are on the court. Wilson records at point or rebound for every 1.04 minutes she is in the game (583 mins/360 pts+198 rebs), while Coates comes in at one or the other every 1.19 minutes she plays (639 mins/299 pts+240 rebs).
- How impressive is the breadth of senior guard Tiffany Mitchell’s basketball career? She ranks among the NCAA active career leaders top 30 in six categories — points (29th, 1,697), 3-point field goal percentage (7th, .410), steals (25th, 211), games played (11th, 127), free throws made (21st, 404) and free throw attempts (24th, 525).
- Junior center Alaina Coates has recorded eight double-doubles in 11 SEC games this season, including the eacho of the last three, during which she averages 17.7 points and 11.3 rebounds on 73.3 percent shooting.
By the Numbers
2 Gamecocks who have turned in double-digit double-doubles this season — Alaina Coates, A’ja Wilson — the only two to reach that mark in the SEC so far this season
3 20-point games by senior guard Tiffany Mitchell in her last six games
7 Of South Carolina’s 11 SEC games that have been against a nationally ranked team, including three top-10 matchups
128 Career games played by senior guards Tiffany Mitchell and Tina Roy, which rank them 10th among active NCAA Division I players
Tennessee Series Notes
The Lady Vols lead the series 45-4, but three of the Gamecocks’ wins have come in the last five seasons, including two in 2014-15. South Carolina has just one win over Tennessee on its home court — a 64-60 decision on Feb. 2, 2012, behind seven 3-pointers from then-senior Markeshia Grant, who is currently a graduate assistant manager for the Gamecocks. Last season, South Carolina and Tennessee vied for SEC supremacy throughout the year and ended up sharing the regular-season title. The Gamecocks won the regular-season matchup at Colonial Life Arena, 71-66, thanks to dominance on the glass, especially on the offensive end where 21 boards yielded 21 second-chance points. A pair of seniors dominated the box score for the game in No. 2/2 South Carolina’s Aleighsa Welch with 19 points and 14 rebounds and No. 6/6 Tennessee’s Cierra Burdick at 16 points and 10 boards. The rematch came in the SEC Tournament championship game, during which No. 3/4 South Carolina survived a tough-shooting first half to take a three-point halftime lead over No. 5/5 Tennessee. The Gamecocks dominated the second half on both ends of the floor, shooting 53.8 percent while holding the Lady Vols to just 26.7 percent. Behind aggressive play from then-freshman A’ja Wilson, South Carolina used an 8-1 run midway through the period to establish a double-digit lead and never looked back in holding Tennessee to just five points in the final 5:27 of the contest.
Overall, South Carolina is 222-243 (.477) in road games, including a 53-34 (.609) record during the Dawn Staley era. After a difficult start as the Gamecocks’ mentor, Staley has guided her team to three of the program’s top five road records in program history, including 2013-14’s school-record winning percentage of .833 (10-2). Last season’s .818 winning percentage (9-2) was second-best, while the 2012-13 team’s .733 (11-4) mark is fifth in program history. This season, South Carolina is 8-0 in road games.
Location, Location, Location
South Carolina averages 39.8 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 (Vanderbilt and UConn have tied), and the Gamecocks have out-paced their opponents in that space by 17.1 points per game. In 11 games against ranked opponents this season, South Carolina has out-scored its foes in the paint by 14.4 points per game. The Gamecocks average 13.5 points in the paint per game more than their SEC opponents. South Carolina’s interior advantage has been at least 20 points in 10 of the team’s 24 games this season, including three games against ranked teams — #6/10 Ohio State (32), #16/18 Arizona State (26) and #15/10 Texas A&M (20). The season-high advantage of 34 points has happened twice — against Arkansas (Jan. 3) and UNCG (Nov. 15).
A Model of Efficiency
Junior center Alaina Coates leads the nation in field goal percentage this season, hitting 68.2 percent of her field goal attempts with the next closest competitor making 66.3 percent. In SEC play, Coates is even more efficient, shooting a league-best 73.3 percent from the field en route to her 12.5 points per game, which rank 10th in the conference. Coates has shot the ball well throughout her career, hitting 61.2 percent as a freshman and 56.2 percent in 2014-15. Her career 60.8 field goal percentage is the fifth highest among active NCAA Division I players.
SEC Active Leaders
Among the SEC’s active leaders in eight statistical categories five different Gamecocks are among the top 10 in at least one with junior Alaina Coates leading the conference in two. 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. 2 on the active blocked shots list (134) and No. 5 on the double-doubles list (15) may catch some observers off guard. Mitchell headlines the South Carolina entries ranking second in scoring (1,719), field goals made (574) and steals (212); third in 3-pointers made (160); fourth in assists (325) and ninth in rebounding (545). She is one of just two true perimeter players on the rebounding list. Coates is the league’s active leader in blocks (160) and double-doubles (35). She sits third in rebounds (810) and is 10th in scoring (1,115). Senior Khadijah Sessions holds sixth in steals (162) and eighth in assists (279). Senior Tina Roy comes in fifth on the 3-pointers made list (145).