Noon Tipoff Sunday vs. Alabama
COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 23/- South Carolina hosts its first SEC game of the season on Sun., Jan. 6, when Alabama visits Colonial Life Arena for a noon tipoff on ESPNU. Both South Carolina (9-4, 1-0 SEC) and Alabama (9-5, 1-0 SEC) won their SEC openers in dramatic fashion Thursday night.
SOUTH CAROLINA NOTABLES
• Through 13 games this season, the most consistent thing about the Gamecocks is their unpredictability. Staley has used six different starting lineups. Seven different Gamecocks have led the team in scoring at least once. Carolina has won games scoring 100 points and scoring 60 points. It has won equally making five or more 3-pointers and fewer than five. The Gamecocks have won five games by fewer than 20 points and four by more than 20. They have won five games shooting better than 45.0 percent from the field and four games shooting below that mark.
• The Gamecocks are turning to a well-worn weapon for success this season – defense. South Carolina is 8-0 when holding opponents under 70 while just 1-4 when opponents cross that threshold. Even that lone win required double overtime for its opponent to hit the 70-point limit. The Gamecock defense has allowed just 55.3 points per win this season.
• Junior Te’a Cooper showed her stat-stuffer ability Thursday night at #21/21 Texas A&M, contributing to the win in nearly every category – 24 points, seven rebounds, six assists. The transfer opened her Gamecock career in a burst of competitive fire but was challenged to balance between taking over a game on her own and expanding her reach to include her teammates more, especially the efficient frontcourt. Balance restored.
• Junior Mikiah Herbert Harrigan is two blocked shots away from moving into 10th place on the program’s career blocks list. Her 112 blocks have come in just 83 career games and rank fourth among active SEC players.
• For Staley, a noted highlight of the win at #21/21 Texas A&M was the engagement in the game and support of those on the bench. Look for the Gamecocks to keep up with positive vibes only.
BY THE NUMBERS
2.4 Blocked shots per game by Mikiah Herbert Harrigan, which ranks 20th in the nation
6 Consecutive SEC openers won by the Gamecocks after Thursday’s 60-57 win at #21/21 Texas A&M
7.0 Points per game by freshman Destanni Henderson in her last three starts, during which she has also handed out 2.3 assists per game
8.6 Rebounds per game by Herbert Harrigan over the last five games
40 Gamecock wins in their last 42 SEC home games
ALABAMA SERIES NOTES
The Gamecocks lead the all-time series 24-15 and are undefeated against the Crimson Tide in the 14 games of the Dawn Staley era. South Carolina’s 14-game win streak against Alabama has an average winning margin of 23.4 points with a high of 48 in the last meeting here at Colonial Life Arena – a 93-45 decision Jan. 1, 2017. The Gamecocks’ last loss in the series was a 65-54 Alabama victory on Jan. 10, 2008, in Tuscaloosa.
South Carolina’s schedule features 10 games against teams ranked in this week’s AP and/or USA Today Coaches Poll, including six against top-10 foes. The Gamecocks are 1-3 vs. ranked teams so far this season.
Three of those top-10 games have already happened with the Gamecocks falling to then-#9/10 Maryland (Nov. 18), then-#9/8 Oregon State (Nov. 23) and then-#4/5 Baylor (Dec. 2). While Drake (Nov. 24) was not ranked for its game against the Gamecocks, the Bulldogs got into the top 25 immediately after their win over South Carolina.
Still ahead in non-conference play for the Gamecocks is #1/1 UConn (Feb. 11).
In addition to South Carolina, four other SEC teams are ranked this week. The Gamecocks will face both #7/6 Mississippi State and #16/15 Kentucky at home and on the road. They travel to #10/10 Tennessee and defeated #21/21 Texas A&M on the road on Jan. 3.
South Carolina has long been a shot-blocking force centered around dominant, physical post players. This season, the Gamecocks are second in the nation in blocked shots per game at 7.4. Against Clemson (Nov. 15), the Gamecocks tied the school record with 16 blocked shots. Three of the top five shot blocking teams in the nation are in the SEC as Mississippi State is just ahead of the Gamecocks in second at 7.23 per game and Georgia is just behind in fifth place at 7.08.
Junior Mikiah Herbert Harrigan leads the way with 2.4 blocks per game to rank second in the SEC and 20th in the nation. Freshman Victaria Saxton comes in seventh in the league at 1.3 per game. Ten other Gamecocks have recorded at least one block this season.
Herbert Harrigan registered a career-high six blocks at #21/21 Texas A&M (Jan. 3) to set a new Gamecock season high. Saxton swatted away five shots against Clemson (Nov. 15), the most by a Gamecock freshman since A’ja Wilson blocked six at Kentucky on March 1, 2015.