Women's Hoops Set for Sunday Exhibition
COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 4/6 South Carolina will host Rutgers in an exhibition game on Sun., Oct. 22. Tipoff at Colonial Life Arena is set for 1 p.m.
Admission to the exhibition game is free with general admission seating in all sections, except selected marked seats reserved for team use.
Parking in lots immediate around Colonial Life Arena will be $20 per car, cash only.
Food trucks will be outside Colonial Life Arena beginning at 11 a.m.
All three entrances at Colonial Life Arena will open at noon with face painting on the concourse above the box office.
Fans are encouraged to wear pink to show support for McCray-Penson and all those who fought or are fighting breast cancer.
Today’s rare exhibition against another NCAA Div. I team is courtesy of an exception to the usual rule, which allows teams to play if raising money for a cause. South Carolina and Rutgers joined together to celebrate the legacy of Nikki McCray-Penson, an assistant coach at both schools who passed away this summer after battling breast cancer twice. The game is raising money for In the Middle, a Columbia organization that assists breast cancer patients and families with expenses, including scholarship opportunities for their children.
The Rutgers Series
While today’s game will not figure into the official series record, it is the fourth all-time meeting between the two squads. South Carolina is 2-1 against the Scarlet Knights, winning the first and last games of the series. The two met in a top-10 battle in Columbia to kick off the series on Jan. 6, 1982, with #2 South Carolina claiming an 84-74 win over #6 Rutger. The Scarlet Knights returned the favor in Piscataway the following year, ranked #19 with a 90-69 upset of then-#14 South Carolina. In the Staley era, the #3 Gamecocks pushed past Rutgers 78-68 in the Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Fla., on Nov. 24, 2017.
The Gamecocks enter the season without the #1 ranking in the preseason polls for the first time since 2019-20, but remain a national presence. The Associated Press Poll has South Carolina ranked sixth in the nation, while the USA Today Coaches Poll slots the Gamecocks in at #4.
In a poll of SEC coaches and media, South Carolina is predicted to finish second in the league’s regular-season standings. The Gamecocks have not finished outside the SEC’s top two teams since a fourth-place showing in the 2012-13 season.
Expect the Unexpected
South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley starts her 16th season in Columbia with an 11-player roster that features just six returners from last season’s NCAA Final Four squad, all of whom came off the bench throughout their Gamecock careers. Among the 11 players are nine McDonald’s High School All-Americans,. The returning group includes 2023 SEC Sixth Woman of the Year Kamilla Cardoso and SEC All-Freshman selection Raven Johnson. Leading the group of five newcomers are three-time All-Pac-12 selection Te-Hina Paopao and 2023 NJCAA National Player of the Year Sakima Walker.
Three Gamecocks are on positional award preseason watch lists, as announced by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Senior Te-Hina Paopao grabbed a spot among the top 20 points guard in the country on the Nancy Lieberman Award. Junior Sania Feagin made the watch list for the Katrina McClain Power Forward of the Year Award for the third time in as many season. Senior center Kamilla Cardoso is on the Lisa Leslie Award list, looking to continue the Gamecocks’ dominance of that award, winning it five of the previous six seasons.
As usual, South Carolina’s schedule does not lack big games. The Gamecocks are slated to play 11 games against teams ranked in at least one of the two national polls, including five games in the season’s first five weeks.
Those 11 games include five at home, four on the road and two at a neutral site.
The Scarlet Knights return six letterwinners from last season’s 12-20 team, including their top four scorers and rebounders. Sophomore Kaylene Smikle drew second-team All-Big Ten honors last season after leading Rutgers with 17.9 points per game, including 19.5 in Big Ten action. Senior Chyna Cornwell led the Scarlet Knights on the glass last season, reeling in 8.6 boards per game to go with her 9.5 points per contest.
Let There Be Love
South Carolina’s 2023-24 season theme “Love” has many meanings, all of which are rooted in loving the game of women’s basketball. Staley often notes that “If you love the game, it will love you back,” which applies to those who support the game as much as those to coach and play it.
For the program, loving basketball is more than loving the wins, the trophies and the cheers from fans; it’s also loving the commitment, the sacrifice and the discipline required to pursue those goals. It even means loving the doubt and criticism of others, using it as fuel.
For the FAMS, loving basketball means investing their time, money and energy in the program’s success; and, in return, they are part of a community that puts aside differences to share their love of the game and being an integral part of the program.