Gamecocks Set for Historic Season Opener
No. 6/4 South Carolina joins No. 10/10 Notre Dame in making history when the two tip off in the Aflac Oui-Play game at 1 p.m. ET on Mon., Nov. 6, in the first ever NCAA women’s basketball regular-season game played in Paris.
The Notre Dame Series
The Gamecocks and Fighting Irish have met five times ahead of tonight’s game with at least one team ranked every time. Notre Dame leads the series 3-2.
While the series began with a pair of Gamecock wins in a home-and-home series in the 1980-81 and 1981-82 seasons, the other three meetings have been on a neutral court in South Carolina’s Dawn Staley era with all three going to the Irish.
Most recently, then-No. 6 Notre Dame eked out an 85-92 win over then-No. 3 South Carolina on Nov. 26, 2017, in the title game of the Gulf Coast Showcase. It was also the Irish who ended the Gamecocks’ first Final Four run with a last-second 66-65 win on Nov. 5, 2015.
By the Numbers
3 – The Gamecocks’ six returning players have started just three career games in a South Carolina uniform.
5 – The Gamecocks are opening the season against a ranked opponent for the fifth time under Staley, carrying 3-1 record into tonight.
8 – Eight of the 11 Gamecocks on this season’s team earned McDonald’s All-America status as a high school senior, including two freshmen.
Dawn Staley begins her 24th season as a head coach and 16th at South Carolina with a completely new starting lineup. The Gamecocks lost all five starters from last season, and five of their 11 players are new to the program this season.
While the names may have changed, the talent is still there with eight McDonald’s All-Americans on the roster, including 2023 SEC Sixth Woman of the Year Kamilla Cardoso and SEC All-Freshman selection Raven Johnson.
The Gamecocks are more guard dominant this season with five dynamic backcourt players. All have the ability to score at all three levels and can distribute the ball as well.
Three-point shooting, often seen as an achilles heel of the Gamecocks, will be a weapon this season, as evidenced by the exhibition game. South Carolina shot 46.2 percent (6-13) from the arc in the first half against Rutgers and finished the game with 10 3s.
Those guards still have access to the power and athleticism of South Carolina’s post players, who will maintain the Staley pillars of rebounding and defense in the paint.
Expect the Gamecocks to play fast and aggressive offensively this season. South Carolina scored 100 points in its exhibition game against Rutgers, including a 31-point fourth quarter that saw mostly newcomers play a bulk of the minutes.
South Carolina’s exhibition against Rutgers came about via a waiver from the NCAA to play a Div. I team in honor of the late Nikki McCray-Penson, who was not only a pillar in the game of women’s basketball but served as an assistant coach on both staffs.
South Carolina is 9-5 all-time in games not played on U.S. soil, including an 8-2 mark in the Staley era – 5-0 in the Bahamas, 2-0 in Mexico, 1-2 in Canada.
South Carolina is 13-2 in season openers under head coach Dawn Staley with the two losses coming in her first three seasons at the helm. Four of those 15 season openers were against ranked opponents with two on the road.
In the first. on Nov. 12, 2010, the unranked Gamecocks lost to #5 Xavier 84-65 in Columbia. The next two came against Ohio State – at home #2 South Carolina defeated the #6 Buckeyes 88-80 on Nov. 13, 2015, then a year later the #4 Gamecocks topped #7 Ohio State in Columbus 92-80 on Nov. 14, 2016. In the most recent, #1 South Carolina traveled to #5 NC State on Nov. 9, 2021, and brought home a 66-57 victory.
Against ranked teams, South Carolina is 106-67 (.613) in the Dawn Staley era (beginning 2008-09), and even that mark is skewed by the early seasons of her tenure. Since the start of the 2014-15 campaign, the Gamecocks are 91-28 (.765) against ranked teams.
It Starts Here
South Carolina’s six returning players have combined for just three career starts in a Gamecock uniform. Including games at another NCAA Div. I institution, that number rises to all of 26.
Senior center Kamilla Cardoso has gotten the lion’s share of the preseason awards attention, but senior transfer Te-Hina Paopao and junior Sania Feagin have seen some accolades as well.
Cardoso earned spots on the preseason watch lists for the Wade Trophy and the Lisa Leslie Center of the Year Award. She was a Preseason All-SEC First-Team selection by both the media and coaches as well.
Paopao picked up her first SEC recognition when the coaches tabbed her for Preseason All-SEC Second-Team honors. She also was one of 20 named to the Nancy Lieberman Point Guard of the Year Award watch list.
For the third season in a row, Feagin was named to the Katrina McClain Power Forward of the Year Award watch list.
South Carolina’s regular-season schedule includes 11 games against teams ranked in at least one of the two national polls. Five of those games come in the first five weeks of the season, including the first two out of the gate against #10/10 Notre Dame and #14/11 Maryland.
Five of the games against preseason ranked teams are at home – #14/11 Maryland (Nov. 12), #25/rv Mississippi State (Jan. 7), #12/16 Ole Miss (Feb. 4), #2/2 UConn (Feb. 11), #11/12 Tennessee (Mar. 3).
Five others are true road games – at #16/17 North Carolina (Nov. 30), at #rv/19 Duke (Dec. 3), at #1/1 LSU (Jan. 25), at #11/12 Tennessee (Feb. 15). Another two are at neutral sites – #10/10 Notre Dame (Nov. 6) and #5/7 Utah (Dec. 10).