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March 16, 2017

Game Information

Date: Fri., Mar. 17, 2017

Location: Columbia, S.C.

Arena: Colonial Life Arena (18,000)

Tickets: $23-33 Booklets; $12-15 Single Session

Tipoff: 5 p.m.

Doors Open: 4 p.m.

Watch On: ESPN2 (Dave Pasch, play-by-play; LaChina Robinson, analyst)

Radio: 107.5 The Game (Brad Muller)

COLUMBIA, S.C. No. 4/4 South Carolina kicks off play in the NCAA Tournament Friday evening at Colonial Life Arena. The top-seeded Gamecocks (27-4, 14-2 SEC) host Big South Tournament champion UNC Asheville at 5 p.m. on ESPN2.

South Carolina Notables

  • The Gamecocks earned their fourth-straight No. 1 seed in this season’s NCAA Tournament, placed in a West Coast regional for the second time in that stretch (Stanford in 2013-14). South Carolina captured the seed after dominant showings in its last five games delivered its fourth-straight SEC regular-season title and third-consecutive SEC Tournament championship.
  • This season marks the third that South Carolina has hosted the opening rounds of NCAA Tournament action with the Gamecocks advancing into the Sweet 16 in each of the previous two seasons they began the event in Columbia. South Carolina drew over 10,000 fans per tournament game in each of those seasons.
  • South Carolina played the seventh-toughest schedule in the nation this season, based on opponent winning percentage. The Gamecocks played 10 games against nationally ranked opponents, posting a 9-1 record, with just three of those 10 contests coming at home. Among teams ranked in this week’s AP Top 25, only Baylor at 11-2 and UConn at 10-0 have more wins against ranked opponents than South Carolina.
  • Storming into SEC regular-season and tournament titles in their last five games, the Gamecocks averaged 79.0 points on 52.4 percent shooting during the stretch, three of which were against nationally ranked opponents. Led by juniors down the stretch, forward A’ja Wilson led three in double figures with her 21.0 points per game..
  • In the last five games, eight Gamecocks have scored in double figures at least once, including two double-figure scoring games for freshman Mikiah Herbert Harrigan and one for freshman point guard Tyasha Harris.
  • National Player of the Year candidate A’ja Wilson is among the most efficient of the 10 Naismith Trophy semifinalists. Her 19.5 points per game against ranked opponents are second among the frontcourt players on the list, and her 8.3 rebounds per game versus ranked foes is third. Wilson leads the group in blocked shots per game on the season (2.6), a number that rises to 3.2 against ranked foes. Against the top scoring guard on the list, Kelsey Plum (Washington), Wilson is more efficient on offense, scoring 1.54 points per field goal attempt to Plum’s 1.34 mark against ranked foes.
  • Even as opposing scouting reports have focused on her more in the four-game absence of a completely healthy Alaina Coates, All-American A’ja Wilson has thrived, scoring 20.0 points per game and grabbing 9.8 rebounds per game without her frontcourt mate at full speed.
  • Junior guard Kaela Davis has thrived down the stretch as the team’s second-leading scorer at the SEC Tournament at 16.3 points per game. Mixing her shot selection, she hit 50.0 percent from the field, including 5-of-7 (.714) from 3-point range.
  • The ever-important point guard tandem of junior Bianca Cuevas-Moore and freshman Tyasha Harris have rounded into form the last five games, combing to average 16.2 points and 7.2 assists to go with a 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio. The duo shot 46.6 percent from the field, including 42.9 percent from 3-point range.
  • Senior Alaina Coates will not play in the NCAA Tournament, continuing to recover from an ankle injury.

Five Second Count

South Carolina is one of three programs in the nation to appear in every AP top 10 since the start of the 2014-15 season. The Gamecocks have played in four of the last five NCAA Sweet 16s, including the 2015 Final Four. In the SEC, South Carolina is now just the second program in league history to win four-straight, regular-season championships and has claimed the last three SEC Tournaments, also just the second program to achieve that mark. In the last four seasons, the Gamecocks are 123-14 (.898) overall and 59-5 (.922) in SEC action

By the Numbers

2 Programs with longer active AP top-10 ranking streaks than the Gamecocks (70) — UConn (233), Notre Dame (126)
4 Consecutive SEC Player of the Year honors picked up by a Gamecock after A’ja Wilson collected the award for the second-straight season
5 SEC regular-season games the Gamecocks have lost in the last four seasons combined
10 Games of five or more assists by freshman point guard Tyasha Harris, who is 14th in the SEC at 3.2 assists per game
11.0 Points per game by freshman Mikiah Herbert Harrigan in her two starts at the SEC Tournament on 72.7 percent shooting
19 Games in which A’ja Wilson has led the Gamecocks in scoring, including five of the last six
50.4 Percent field goal shooting by South Carolina’s starting guards over the last five games, during which they average 33.2 points
60.2 Percent of the all-time SEC regular-season wins by South Carolina (161) that have come in the nine seasons of the Dawn Staley era (97)

UNC Asheville Series Notes

The Gamecocks and Bulldogs have met three times in program history with South Carolina picking up all three wins by an average of 47.7 points. The teams last met the season before current head coach Dawn Staley took over the Gamecock program.

NCAA Tournament Tally

South Carolina is in its 14th NCAA Tournament and sixth straight under head coach Dawn Staley, making this season’s senior class just the fourth in program history to play in the NCAA Tournament every season and the second straight to do so. South Carolina earned its fourth No. 1 seed in as many seasons

The Gamecocks are 19-13 overall in the NCAA Tournament with seven Sweet 16 appearances, highlighted by 2015’s run to the program’s first NCAA Final Four.

In her 17th season as a head coach, Staley has taken a team to the NCAA Tournament 10 times. She is 10-11 at the event, including an 11-5 mark at South Carolina.

Gamecocks Against the Field

South Carolina has faced 14 teams that made this season’s NCAA Tournament, including one other team in the Stockton Region (Missouri). The Gamecocks went 14-4 against those 14 teams, which includes seven SEC foes, and 4-2 against teams seeded in the top three in their region. Just six of those 18 games came at home.

In addition to their seven SEC rivals in the field — Auburn, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas A&M — the Gamecocks faced non-conference games against Duke, Hampton, Louisville, Ohio State, Texas, UCLA and UConn.

In the 18 games against the NCAA Field, the Gamecocks averaged 74.4 points on 47.0 percent field goal shooting, while allowing 62.7 points per game on 38.7 percent shooting. South Carolina out-rebounded those teams by 3.6 per game and averaged 7.2 steals and 5.1 blocks. The Gamecocks significantly out-scored those teams at the free throw line, making 17.1 per game to their opponents’ 10.1. A’ja Wilson averaged a team-best 18.7 points per game to go with 8.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. Allisha Gray, Kaela Davis and Alaina Coates also averaged double-figures in those 18 games, each posting just over 12.0 points per game.

SEC Tournament Rewind

South Carolina won its third-straight conference tournament for the first time in program history and joined Tennessee as the only programs to win three straight SEC Tournament championships, capturing the 2017 title in front of a largely home crowd at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, S.C. The Gamecocks’ three-year sweep of regular-season and tournament titles from 2015 through 2017 matches the Lady Vols’ stretch from 1993 to 2000 as well.

In the 2017 tournament, junior forward A’ja Wilson drew Tournament MVP honors behing her 19.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. In the title game, she posted seven points and eight rebounds in the fourth quarter to power the Gamecocks to the win. Junior guard Kaela Davis also earned All-Tournament honors, putting together her most efficient offensive games of the season with 16.3 points per game on 50.0 percent field goal shooting, including 5-of-7 from 3-point range. As a team, the Gamecocks brought home the trophy behind a pair of wins over ranked opponents and topped their three opponents by an average of 15.3 points. Defensively, they held their quarterfinal and championship game opponents — Georgia and Mississippi State, respectively — to under 50 points.

National Recognition

The Gamecocks’ frontcourt of senior Alaina Coates and junior A’ja Wilson has captured national attention all season long, beginning with espnW naming them the No. 9 and No. 1 player in the nation, respectively, coming into the 2016-17 campaign.

Named to ESPN’s All-America First Team this week, Wilson continues to be in the running for national player of the year honors as a member of the Wooden National Ballot and the Naismith Trophy Semifinal list. She was also on the last Wade Trophy and USBWA Drysdale Award watch lists released.

Coates is also in the running for All-America status, ranking among the nation’s top 20 in field goal percentage (3rd), rebounding (12th) and double-doubles (19th). She was on the Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy late-season watch lists.

Diversified Assets

Five different Gamecocks have led the team in scoring at least once this season, led by A’ja Wilson’s 19 games. Six have been the team’s top rebounder — a list paced by Alaina Coates’ 20. Even more diverse is the collection of assist leaders. While dominated by freshman point guard Tyasha Harris at 13, there are eight total Gamecocks who have led the team in at least one game.