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Gamecock Gameday: Gamecocks Open Women's Final Four Friday
Women's Basketball  . 

Gamecock Gameday: Gamecocks Open Women's Final Four Friday

March 30, 2017

Game Information

Date: Fri., Mar. 31, 2017

Tipoff: 7:30 p.m. (ET)

Location: Dallas

Arena: American Airlines Center

Tickets: SOLD OUT

Watch On: ESPN2 (Dave O’Brien, play-by-play; Doris Burke, analyst; Kara Lawson, analyst; Holly Rowe, sideline)

Broadcast: 107.5 The Game (Brad Muller)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — In the NCAA Final Four for the second time in three seasons, No. 3/4 South Carolina takes on Stanford Fri., Mar. 31, at 7:30 p.m. ET at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The Gamecocks join LSU and Georgia as the only SEC programs to place two teams in the NCAA Final Four in the same season.

South Carolina Notables

  • The Gamecocks are in the NCAA Final Four for the second time in three seasons after not reaching that level in the first 37 seasons of the NCAA Tournament.
  • South Carolina men’s basketball is also in this season’s Final Four, marking the 13th time a school has sent both teams to the national semifinals, most recently Syracuse in 2016. The Gamecocks are the third SEC program to claim the achievement — Georgia (1983) and LSU (2006).
  • The Gamecocks are one of two SEC teams in the Final Four this season, marking the 10th time the league has put two teams into the event. The most recent prior to this season was 2008 when LSU and Tennessee advanced to the national semifinals.
  • South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley squares off against her former USA Basketball head coach in Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer Friday night. Earlier this month, Staley was named head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team for 2017-20. Staley is 0-5 against her mentor, including one game while the head coach at Temple. This is their second meeting in NCAA Tournament action as the Cardinal claimed a win in the 2012 NCAA Sweet 16 battle in the Gamecocks’ first of now six straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
  • The Gamecocks have found success this season thanks to a sense of balance, both broadly and individually. South Carolina’s offense ranks 18th in the nation (77.0 ppg) while its defense is 25th (57.0 ppg), and it is sixth in both field goal percentage and field goal percentage defense. The Gamecock offense is made up of 49.9 percent points in the paint on the season, but it has also seen 3-pointers make up at least 25.0 percent of a game’s scoring 10 times. Individually, four of the five starters average double-figure points this season. Five different Gamecocks have led the team in scoring at least once, six in rebounding and nine in assists.
  • Led by a freshman point guard, South Carolina is 25th in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.2) Tyasha Harris is among the steadiest freshman floor generals in the nation, ranking sixth among the group in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.1). Her 3.3 assists per game are good for 14th in the SEC, and she has 11 games of five or more assists.
  • There may not be any player in the NCAA Tournament hotter right now than South Carolina junior Kaela Davis, whose game on both sides of the ball looks as fluid as it has all season. With a renewed commitment to mixing her shot selection and to sustained effort on defense, the 6-foot-2 guard has thrived in the Gamecocks’ seven postseason games, averaging 18.0 points on 51.7 percent shooting, including 50.0 percent 3-point accuracy, to go with 2.4 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game. The effort earned her NCAA Stockton Regional MOP honors and a spot on the SEC All-Tournament team.
  • For the second-straight season junior forward A’ja Wilson is a finalist for every national player of the year award and a First-Team All-American. Her contributions continue to skyrocket each time the spotlight gets brighter as she averages. 19.8 points per NCAA Tournament game on 62.8 percent shooting.

By the Numbers

4 20-point games by Kaela Davis in the Gamecocks’ six postseason contests this season, including the last three
4 Games this season in which 6-foot guard Allisha Gray has been the Gamecocks’ top rebounder, including two NCAA Tournament games
6 Gamecocks shooting at least 50.0 percent from the field in the postseason (SEC, NCAA Tournament)
6 Games with three or more steals by Bianca Cuevas-Moore this season, including two NCAA Tournament outings
10 Wins against nationally ranked opponents in 11 outings, including three since Alaina Coates’ injury
11 Games of five or more assists by freshman point guard Tyasha Harris, who is 14th in the SEC at 3.3 assists per game
18 Quarters among the last 24 in which South Carolina shot at least 50.0 percent from the field
50.0 Percent of the Gamecocks offense coming in the paint in the eight games without Alaina Coates
79 Points by A’ja Wilson in this year’s NCAA Tournament, the most in one season’s event in program history

Stanford Series Notes

The Cardinal have won all five games of the all-time series against the Gamecocks with the most recent battle coming early in the 2012-13 season.

Stanford and South Carolina have met once before in the NCAA Tournament, playing a Sweet 16 game in Fresno, Calif., on Mar. 24, 2012, which the Cardinal claimed 76-60. Six months later, then-No. 1 Stanford traveled to South Carolina where it just held off the 21st-ranked Gamecocks 53-49 on Dec. 19, 2012.

In the Driver’s Seat

South Carolina junior guard Kaela Davis exploded into her Gamecock career with a 37-point outing against #7/6 Ohio State and rained in 3-pointers through the first month of the season. Enduring an up-and-down regular season, Davis has thrived in the postseason by relying on the other tools at her disposal — including those outside her renowned scoring abilities.

The 6-foot-2 lithe athlete closed SEC action averaging 11.0 points on 33.9 percent shooting, including 26.8 percent from 3-point range, to go with 3.1 rebounds per game in league play.

With her renewed focus on diversifying her offense, seven postseason victories have come in large part because of Davis’ 18.0 points per game on 51.7 percent shooting, including 50.0 percent from 3-point range, and 4.4 rebounds per game. In the three tightest games of that group — SEC semifinal vs. Kentucky and final vs. #6/7 Mississippi State and NCAA second round vs. Arizona State — her scoring exploded to 20.0 points per game on 53.7 percent shooting, including 50.0 percent from 3-point range.

Heart of a Champion

Tournament time shows just how strong a players’ iron has been forged in the heat of the season. In these win-or-go-home games this season, South Carolina’s A’ja Wilson has put South Carolina on her back even as the defensive focus on her doubled in the absence of her long-time frontcourt partner Alaina Coates.

In seven postseason games spanning the SEC and NCAA Tournaments, Wilson averages 19.7 points on 59.5 percent shooting, 6.9 rebounds, 3.6 blocked shots and 1.3 steals.

In the three games within five points at the end of their third quarters, Wilson led the Gamecocks with 8.0 points on 50.0 percent shooting (5-of-10) and 93.3 percent free throw accuracy (14-of-15) along with 4.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots.

As Arizona State’s Sophie Brunner put it after Wilson’s heroics helped the Gamecocks into the Sweet 16, “She’s their money player, so we knew they wanted to get it to her. We just couldn’t defend her, get the ball out of her hands.”

Gray Area

Due to teammate injuries, junior guard Allisha Gray has started six games this season as essentially the Gamecocks’ starting power forward. Undersized only in height, the six-foot guard’s heart and competitive fire made those outings — at LSU, at Texas A&M, vs. Mississippi State, UNC Asheville, Arizona State, vs. Quinnipiac, vs. Florida State — some of her most productive games of the season. In those seven outings, Gray posted 14.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game while shooting 62.5 percent from the field. In fact, in NCAA Tournament action, she leads the team on the glass at 8.0 rebounds per game.

To Your Point

Most pundits have opined that South Carolina’s postseason fate lies in the hands of its points guards — the young but steady freshman Tyasha Harris and the experienced but occasionally unpredictable Bianca Cuevas-Moore. The nation’s most notable point guard of all-time, Dawn Staley enthusiastically agrees with the duo’s ability to power the Gamecocks toward their goals.

Moving Harris into the starting role at the start of SEC play, Staley set on optimizing her high-octane starting lineup with an organized, pass-first point guard while letting Cuevas-Moore pounce on opponents off the bench as a fast-paced offensive weapon with quick hands on the defensive end.

While both are in the starting lineup now due to the injury to Alaina Coates, Harris and Cuevas-Moore have mastered and are constantly expanding their roles.

In seven postseason games, Harris averages 5.9 assists per game with a 1.9 assist-to-turnover ratio while shooting 60.0 percent from the field. Cuevas-Moore has balanced her 8.3 points per game on 37.8 percent shooting this postseason with 2.4 assists per game and 2.0 steals per contest.

Diversified Assets

Five different Gamecocks have led the team in scoring at least once this season, led by A’ja Wilson’s 20 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 15, there are nine total Gamecocks who have led the team in at least one game.