March 5, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. — No. 3/2 South Carolina is set for the SEC Tournament semifinals for the third time in the last four seasons, facing No. 13/13 Kentucky Fri., March 5, at 5 p.m. The top-seeded Gamecocks (29-1, 16-0 SEC) are looking to top the Wildcats for the third time this season behind their powerful frontcourt of SEC Player of the Year A’ja Wilson and First-Team All-SEC center Alaina Coates, who combined for 40.0 points and 22.0 rebounds per game in this season’s two meetings with Kentucky.
- South Carolina and Kentucky have met twice before in the SEC Tournament with the Wildcats winning both outings. Most recently, the Wildcats upended top-seeded South Carolina in the semifinals of the 2014 event. The first time they met was in the 1994 tournament, just the Gamecocks’ third season in the SEC.
- In 12 games against ranked opponents this season, the Gamecocks have won a school-record 11 times. Junior center Alaina Coates averages a double-double against the nation’s elite with 10.6 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. SEC Player of the Year A’ja Wilson is just shy of the double-double, pouring in a team-high 19.3 points per game and pulling down 9.8 rebounds per outing. As a team, South Carolina has held its ranked foes to just 62.2 points per game and have out-rebounded them 39.5 to 36.8. Tina Roy has been the primary set-up player for South Carolina, handing out a team-high 2.4 assists per game against ranked teams.
- South Carolina ranks among the nation’s top 10 in field goal percentage defense and 33rd in points allowed. They have allowed over 65 points just five times this season and only five opponents have shot at least 40.0 percent.
- The Gamecock defense has been locked in the last few weeks, holding their last four opponents under 50 points. South Carolina has allowed just 45.8 points per game over the last five outings.
- South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley has been challenging her bench to contribute more on the offensive end, and they have answered, out-pacing their opponent counterparts in each of the last three games, including on Friday against Auburn 17-4.
- The Gamecocks were out-scored in the paint by Auburn on Friday (26-24) for the first time this season. South Carolina more than made up the difference at the free throw line, making 22 free throws to the Tigers’ five.
- In the last three games, South Carolina has doubled its opponents trips to the free throw line (81-40) with the Gamecocks hitting 75.3 percent from the stripe during that stretch.
- Senior Tiffany Mitchell and sophomore A’ja Wilson were named to both the Wooden Award National Ballot and Naismith Trophy semifinalists this week, making South Carolina one of three programs to have multiple selections on the Wooden ballot and one of two with more than one Naismith semifinalist.
- Sophomore guard Bianca Cuevas was solid in the SEC Tournament quarterfinal win over Auburn, scoring 10 points while handing out three assists and swiping four steals in 27 minutes. It was her sixth double-figure scoring game of the season.
By the Numbers
4 School records broken by junior center Alaina Coates this season — 10 blocks in a game, 10 double-doubles in an SEC season, 608 career defensive rebounds, 20 career double-doubles in SEC play
7 Defensive rebounds needed by Alaina Coates to tie the school record for defensive boards in a season (230, Beth Hunt, 1989-90)
19.3 Points per game by sophomore forward A’ja Wilson against ranked opponents this season (12 games)
28 Quarters this season in which the Gamecocks have held their opponent to single digits, including at least one in each of the last five games
Kentucky Series Notes
Kentucky leads the series 33-24, but the Gamecocks have won three of the last two season’s four meetings. The overall series gap closes to a 9-8 Wildcat advantage in South Carolina’s Dawn Staley era with the Gamecocks holding a 6-3 edge in the last four seasons. In this season’s two meetings, South Carolina’s frontcourt led the way with A’ja Wilson averaging 22.0 points and 10.0 rebounds, while Alaina Coates added 18.0 points and 12.0 rebounds per game. The Gamecocks averaged 75.5 points on 46.0 percent shooting and held the Wildcats to 65.0 points per game on 39.1 percent shooting. Both teams made 52 field goals over the two games, but the Gamecocks made 39 free throws to Kentucky’s 21 and out-rebounded the Wildcats 41.5 to 37.5. Both games were within single digits in the final five minutes of play, and once again the free throw line made the difference with the Gamecocks going 10-of-12 in that stretch compared to Kentucky’s 0-for-4 showing as South Carolina averaged 11.0 points to the Wildcats’ 6.5 in the final stretch of the contest.
The Gamecocks have played 12 games against ranked teams this season with an 11-1 record. The win total includes four against top-10 teams and broke last season’s school record of 10 wins against nationally ranked foes. In 2014-15, five of the 10 wins were against top-10 foes. This season against ranked teams, South Carolina averages 69.7 points on 43.2 percent field goal shooting while holding its opponent to 62.2 points per game on 36.2 percent shooting. Sophomore forward A’ja Wilson leads the offense with 19.3 points per game to go with her 9.8 rebounds per outing. Junior center Alaina Coates averages a double-double against ranked teams this season — 10.6 points, 10.4 rebounds. Senior guard Tiffany Mitchell adds 14.0 points per game against ranked opponents. In the eight games against ranked SEC opponents, the Gamecocks are out-performing their early-season tangles with the nation’s elite. In those eight outings, South Carolina averages 71.0 points on 44.0 percent shooting and holds opponents to 60.9 points per game on 36.5 percent shooting. After posting a 24-9 record against ranked opponents since the start of the 2013-14 season, head coach Dawn Staley has a 36-43 mark vs. the nation’s best teams during her South Carolina tenure, highlighted by a 24-8 mark when the Gamecocks carry a better ranking than their opponent into the contest.
Location, Location, Location
South Carolina averages 37.5 points in the paint this season, making up 51.3 percent of the Gamecocks’ offense. Only one opponent has out-scored South Carolina in the paint this season — Auburn (Mar. 4) — (Vanderbilt and UConn tied), and the Gamecocks have out-paced their opponents in that space by 15.9 points per game. In 12 games against ranked opponents this season, South Carolina has out-scored its foes in the paint by 12.6 points per game. The Gamecocks averaged 13.6 points in the paint per game more than their SEC opponents. South Carolina’s interior advantage has been at least 20 points in 11 games, 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).
Led by arguably among the best frontcourts in the nation, South Carolina leads the country in free throw attempts (736) and is fifth in free throws made (493). The Gamecocks attempt 24.5 free throws per game on the season, including 25.6 per SEC contest. The Gamecocks have made more free throws than their opponents have attempted both overall (493-437) and in SEC play (274-221). They have made more than their opponents attempted in 15 games this season, including nine SEC games, and matched their opponents’ number in three other contests, one of those coming in league action. South Carolina is shooting 67.0 percent from the free throw line — a number that has been on the rise recently after hitting 75.3 percent in the last three games. Two Gamecocks ranked among the SEC’s top percentage free throw shooters in league play — Tiffany Mitchell (2nd, .833) and A’ja Wilson (7th, .725) — who also led the team in free throw attempts in league play with Wilson at 91 and Mitchell at 78. This season, South Carolina has out-scored its opponent on the free throw line 25 times, including 14 SEC games. The Gamecocks have made at least 20 free throws nine 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), 22 vs. #16/19 Florida (Feb. 11), 22 at #24/- Tennessee (Feb. 15), 21 vs. LSU (Feb. 28) and 22 vs. Auburn (Mar. 4).