Monday's Season Opener to Start with Championship Celebration
COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 1/1 South Carolina officially opens the 2022-23 regular season with an 8:30 p.m. tipoff against East Tennessee State on Mon., Nov. 7, at Colonial Life Arena. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. with a pregame ceremony celebrating the team’s 2021-22 championships set to begin at 8:10 p.m.
- The Gamecocks are 7-1 in season openers played in at home under head coach Dawn Staley, who is 12-2 overall in season openers at South Carolina.
- South Carolina’s 10 returning letterwinners include four of the last season’s five starters, three of whom were named to the Naismith Trophy Watch List earlier last week – Brea Beal, Aliyah Boston, Zia Cooke.
- Head coach Dawn Staley is entering her 15th season at South Carolina, having elevated the program to a perennial national contender with two National Championships in the last six NCAA Tournaments.
- The Gamecocks are 11-1 all-time against East Tennessee State, which is led by Brenda Mock Brown in her first season with the Bucs. Staley and Mock Brown have squared off once before when the Gamecocks topped UNC Asheville 90-40 in the first round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
- Reigning National Player of the Year Aliyah Boston has had a busy summer, not just enjoying the spoils of her 2021-22 season, but getting a preview of what is to come. The senior forward was the lone college player in the USA Basketball training camp for the FIBA World Cup team, staying with the team as it traveled to Australia ahead of the tournament. Only the late arrival of WNBA Champion A’ja Wilson and other WNBA Finals participants kept Boston off the final roster for the event.
- Tonight marks the last season opener for a senior class that became the program’s first No. 1 signing class in 2019. Over the last three seasons, the group has amassed a sterling 93-8 (.921) record.
Now in its senior season, South Carolina’s first No. 1 signing class – Laeticia Amihere, Brea Beal, Aliyah Boston, Zia Cooke, Olivia Thompson – has shaped the program from the moment those five freshmen gathered on campus.
In careers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the group has reached the Final Four in both their NCAA Tournament appearances, including winning the 2022 National Championship, and has never been ranked outside the top 10. With a combined 93-8 record, they have won 92.1 percent of their games, including a 37-5 mark against nationally ranked opponents.
In SEC action, the class has lost a total of just three league games en route to two regular-season titles (2020, 2022). They have played in three SEC Tournament championship games, claiming the title in two of those (2020, 2021).
Dial Up the Defense
Head coach Dawn Staley has always put a premium on defense, but the Gamecocks have taken it to another level over the last three seasons, during which opponents have scored just 54.7 points per game.
Last season’s program-record low 50.7 points per game ranked third in the nation and helped the Gamecocks lead the nation in scoring margin (+20.2). South Carolina also led the nation in field goal percentage defense (.332) and blocked shots per game (7.4).
No team reached its scoring average against the Gamecocks last season, including some of the SEC and the nation’s most prolific offenses, and only three came within single digits of it – Missouri (Dec. 30), Mississippi State (Jan. 2), vs. Kentucky (Mar. 6).