March 6, 2016
COLUMBIA, S.C. — No. 3/2 South Carolina will play in its second-straight SEC Tournament championship game on Sun., March 6, at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN. The Gamecocks (30-1, 16-0 SEC) take on No. 16/16 Mississippi State, the tournament’s third seed. South Carolina, which has seven straight win over the Bulldogs, looks to keep up the momentum from its highest scoring game of the season in the semis to claim its second SEC Tournament title in as many seasons.
- The Gamecocks are in the SEC Tournament championship game for just the second time in school history, but the second time in as many seasons. South Carolina is looking to give the league back-to-back tournament champions for the eighth time in conference history.
- South Carolina head coach predicted that two-time All-American Tiffany Mitchell would avenge her SEC Tournament quarterfinal performance with a great game against No. 13/13 Kentucky (Mar. 5) in the semis, and the Charlotte, N.C., native delivered. Mitchell turned in her sixth 20-point game of the season, including four 3s to tie her season high. Over the last three games, including the eight-point outing against Auburn (Mar. 4), she averaged 17.3 points per game on 43.6 percent shooting, including 40.0 percent (8-of-20) from 3-point range. Mitchell’s complete game has been on display in the last three contests, averaging 3.3 assists and 2.3 steals.
- Junior center Alaina Coates continues her season-long dominance on the glass, posting her 17th double-double of the season against No. 13/13 Kentucky (Mar. 5), including four of the last five games. Among the most dominant rebounders in Gamecock history, Coates is one of two to amass 1,000 career points and 800 rebounds before her senior season. She already holds the record for career defensive rebounds, she is seventh in offensive board with 269. Of her 17 double-doubles, 10 came during the SEC regular season and she has one in each game of this season’s SEC Tournament. Coates also averages a double-double against ranked opponents, posting 10.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game over the Gamecocks’ 13 outings against ranked foes.
- Sophomore forward A’ja Wilson also bounced back from a tough offensive outing in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals, netting 18 points against No. 13/13 Kentucky, including 4-of-4 accuracy in the second half after sloughing off a hard foul in the paint. Two of her four blocked shots in the game came during the big run in the second quarter. Wilson has shined under the brightest spotlights, leading the team with 19.2 points per game against ranked opponents while blocking 4.1 shots per game and grabbing 9.5 rebounds per contest.
- Sophomore guard Bianca Cuevas has scored 8.4 points per game over the last five outings, including scoring 12.5 points per game in the SEC Tournament, shooting 60.0 percent from the field, including 4-of-8 from 3-point range, at the event. The Bronx native has been fine-tuning her jump shot after practice the last few weeks and reaping the rewards. Over the last five games, she is shooting 51.9 percent (14-of-27) from the field and 42.9 percent (6-of-14) from 3 -point range. Cuevas entered the stretch shooting 34.2 percent overall and just 18.8 percent from 3-point range.
- Senior guard/forward Asia Dozier’s impact on the Gamecocks cannot be measured by her entries in the box score. Instead, the team’s productivity on both ends of the floor reflect the depth of her contributions. In the five games she missed with an injury, South Carolina averaged 68.2 points per game on 42.7 percent shooting and allowed opponents 62.4 points per game on 38.4 percent shooting. In the five games since her return, South Carolina has averaged 71.4 points on 45.7 percent shooting while opponents averaged 48.2 points on 31.8 percent shooting.
By the Numbers
2 Defensive rebounds needed by Alaina Coates to tie the school record for defensive boards in a season (230, Beth Hunt, 1989-90)
5 Gamecocks who scored in double figures against #13/13 Kentucky (Mar. 4), marking the fourth time this season that many have netted at least 10 points in a game but the first against a ranked opponent
12 Wins over nationally ranked opponents this season (a school record), including four over top-10 teams, eight against an SEC foe and five played outside Columbia
84.6 Percent shooting by the Gamecocks in the fourth quarter of the semifinal game against #13/13 Kentucky, the highest single quarter of the season
Mississippi State Series Notes
With seven straight wins over the Bulldogs, South Carolina has leveled the all-time series at 16-16. Mississippi State’s last win in the series was a 55-53 decision at Colonial Life Arena on Feb. 11, 2010. Nearly every battle with Mississippi State during the Dawn Staley era has been a defensive showcase. The Gamecocks have averaged 57.7 points over the 10 games while holding the Bulldogs to just 51.2 points per game. Only once has either team reached 70 points, and seven times neither team scored over 60 points in the game with the Gamecocks winning four of those seven. Both teams have been nationally ranked in four of the all-time meetings, including each of the last two. In the matchup earlier this season in Starkville, senior guard Tiffany Mitchell scored 21 points, including nine in the fourth quarter to hold off a late surge from the Bulldogs in front of their capacity crowd. The Gamecocks struggled shooting in the first the third quarters, but hit 55.6 percent in the second and 70.0 percent in the fourth.