Women's Hoops Exhibition and FAM Fest Set for Monday
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Reigning National Champion South Carolina unofficially opens its 2022-23 season Monday night when an exhibition game against Benedict College. Tipoff at Colonial Life Arena is set for 7 p.m., and the program will host FAM Fest on the concourse inside the arena 5-7 p.m. The event features trick-or-treating stations, face painting and inflatables for the kids along and the women’s basketball team doing Gamecock Walk around the concourse at approximately 5:10 p.m. Costumes are welcome, but no masks will be allowed for safety reasons. Doors for FAM Fest open at 5 p.m. for access to the concourse. Access to seating areas begins at 6 p.m.
When: October 31 at 7 p.m.
Where: Colonial Life Arena
Tickets: Free admission
Parking: Season pass or pay upon entry
Live Stats: StatBroadcast
Head coach Dawn Staley will announce the theme for their 2022-23 season during tonight’s Gamecock Walk as part of FAM Fest before the game. The walk around the outside of the arena from the College Street entrance to the team entrance along Gadsden Street will begin at approximately 5:10 p.m.
Tonight’s game marks the second time the Gamecocks have hosted Benedict in an exhibition game to open the season. The two met in last season’s exhibition, a 98-41 South Carolina victory on Nov. 1.
Since it began playing other college teams in exhibitions in 2009-10, South Carolina has won those games by an average of 53.0 points. The Gamecocks have scored 100 points in five of their last seven exhibitions, the first of which was a 100-25 decision over Coker (Nov. 2, 2014) in the biggest exhibition win under head coach Dawn Staley.
The 2022-23 Gamecocks
South Carolina returns four of its five starters among its 10 returning letterwinners from the 2022 National Championship team, and head coach Dawn Staley added a pair of top-20 signees in Ashlyn Watkins (No. 12) and Talaysia Cooper (No. 18) to this season’s roster, along with Georgia Tech transfer Kierra Fletcher. The 2022-23 season is the senior campaign for Staley’s first-ever No. 1 ranked signing class, headlined by 2022 National Player of the Year Aliyah Boston and two-time All-SEC and honorable mention All-America guard Zia Cooke. Stalwart defender Brea Beal, versatile forward Laeticia Amihere and local favorite Olivia Thompson are also part of that Class of 2019 signing class.
Fifth-year senior Victaria Saxton returned for her extra season of eligibility to shore up the Gamecocks’ dominant frontcourt, which also features a more dominant Kamilla Cardoso. Sophomores Sania Feagin (forward) and Bree Hall (guard) look to make their mark more regularly in their second season, and redshirt freshman Raven Johnson will battle Fletcher to take over the point guard position left vacant by WNBA draft pick Destanni Henderson.
Gamecocks are on four of the five positional award watch lists announced by the Naismith Hall of Fame and Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) in the preseason. The lists recognize the top 20 players in the nation at each of the five positions.
Zia Cooke is once again on the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award list, and she was a finalist for the award that honors the nation’s top shooting guard in 2021.
Brea Beal was listed among those on the list for the best small forward in the nation, the Cheryl Miller Award.
Power forwards Victaria Saxton and Sania Feagin were selected to the watch list for the Katrina McClain Award.
Aliyah Boston is looking for a sweep of the Lisa Leslie Award as the top center in the country after winning the award each of her previous three seasons.
As the reigning national champion, the Gamecocks are atop both preseason polls by a near unanimous decision. South Carolina claimed all 30 No. 1 votes in the Associated Press Poll. In the USA Today Coaches Poll, 30 of the 32 votes went to the Gamecocks.
South Carolina opened and closed the 2021-22 season atop both polls. The Gamecocks have been No. 1 in the AP poll 33 times since the start of the 2019-20 season, more than three times as many weeks as second place on the list, Stanford. South Carolina has been in the AP top five for a nation-leading 52 of the 57 polls in that same time period.
The Gamecocks were also selected to repeat as SEC Regular-Season Champions by both the media and league coaches in preseason voting.
Head coach James Rice welcomed 10 newcomers to his roster for 2022-23. He led last season’s veteran lineup to a 23-8 record that included a SIAC Tournament Championship and a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Div. II NCAA Tournament.