No. 1 Gamecocks Head to East Carolina Saturday
No. 1/1 South Carolina plays its final game of 2023 on Saturday at East Carolina. Tipoff on ESPN2 is set for noon ET.
The East Carolina Series
The Gamecocks hold a 15-1 edge in the series against East Carolina with the lone loss coming in the inaugural game of the series in the 1974-75 season.
The two teams have met once before in South Carolina’s Dawn Staley era with the Gamecocks picking up an 88-57 victory in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Dec. 20, 2015.
By the Numbers
2 – South Carolina has shot under 50.0 percent in just two games this season.
2.1 – In addition to averaging a double-double, center Kamilla Cardoso is fourth on the team with 2.1 assists per game.
6 – The Gamecocks have scored at least half their points in the paint in six of their 11 games this season.
The Gamecocks are making their first trip to Greenville, N.C., since Feb. 27, 1989.
South Carolina is looking to go 12-0 for the third-straight season.
The Gamecocks are second in the nation in field goal percentage at .526. Eight Gamecocks are shooting over 50.0 percent for the season, including three of the team’s five guards.
South Carolina’s defense continue to be the backbone of the team’s success, ranking ninth in the nation in points allowed at 51.0 per game on an NCAA-best 29.2 percent field goal shooting. Only two games have seen an opponent reach 70 points and six games have seen opponents fail to hit 60 points.
The Gamecocks offense has been hot in December, shooting 56.8 percent from the field, including 50.6 percent from 3-point range.
South Carolina’s offense has set the tone early this season, scoring 23.6 points per first quarter on 51.5 percent shooting in the period. In December those numbers have skyrocketed to 27.6 points per first period on 67.9 percent shooting.
National Player of the Year candidate Kamilla Cardoso is a force on both ends of the court. Her 62.6 percent shooting is 14th in the nation, and her 10.1 rebounds per game come in 22nd. Defensively, she is third in the NCAA with 3.4 blocks per game.
In December, Chloe Kitts has been on a rampage, leading the team with 9.2 rebounds per game and averaging 12.8 points on 61.9 percent shooting in that stretch.
Since breaking out of a shooting slump at #24/24 North Carolina (Nov. 30), Bree Hall has been on a tear. Over the last six games, she has scored 12.0 points per game on 59.5 percent from the field, including 57.7 percent (15-of-26) from 3-point range.
The Staley File
In her 24th season as a head coach, Dawn Staley has a .759 (585-186) winning percentage, which ranks ninth in the nation among active head coaches with at least 15 seasons of experience and seventh among those with at least 20 years in the position. The unanimous 2020 National Coach of the Year, she became the first person to win both a Naismith Player of the Year and a Naismith Coach of the Year and the first Black head coach to win multiple national championships in men’s or women’s basketball. She has been named national coach of the year by at least one organization four times, including three times in the last four seasons.
In her 16th season leading the Gamecocks, Staley is the program’s all-time winningest coach (413) with a program-record 12 postseason appearances (11 NCAA/1 WNIT). She accounts for all five of the Gamecocks’ Final Four appearances (2015, 2017, 2021, 2022, 2023) and the first NCAA National Championships in program history (2017, 2022).
After claiming seven SEC regular-season titles, Staley has won 183 SEC games, the most among active league coaches and third all-time – trailing just Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductees Andy Landers (Georgia, 273) and Pat Summitt (Tennessee, 306). Her 12.2 SEC wins average per season is the best in league history among coaches with more than two years in the league, and her .769 SEC winning percentage (183-55) is second only to Summitt (.874) in league history.
Any question about South Carolina’s bench points falling off with last season’s top bench scorers moving into the starting lineup were dispelled early. The Gamecocks’ six-woman bench is second in the nation with 35.5 points per game. The South Carolina bench has out-scored its opponents’ starters four times this season.
Last season, the Gamecocks led the nation with 36.1 bench points per game. The second-place team (Georgia Southern) turned in 31.2.
South Carolina has long dominated the paint, and this season’s numbers have not fallen off from that tradition, despite all the attention to its 3-point shooting. The season kicked off with 70 of the team’s 100 points against #10/10 Notre Dame (Nov. 6) coming in the paint and five other games have included at least half the total points coming in the paint.
The Gamecocks are out-scoring opponents in the paint 50.5 to 21.6. They are shooting 61.1 percent in the paint compared to opponents’ 33.9 percent accuracy inside. So far this season, the Gamecocks have scored 54.6 percent of their points in the paint.
Last season, South Carolina averaged 43.8 points in the paint to account for 54.6 percent of its offense.
That’s So Raven
Sophomore Raven Johnson’s self-proclaimed “revenge tour” has left little doubt that she should be part of any conversation about the best point guards in the country. Without losing the instincts and court vision Staley has always loved, Johnson has added her own offensive efficiency to the Gamecocks’ high-octane offense.
Johnson is 18th in the nation and third in the SEC with 6.2 assists per game, and her 2.95 assist-to-turnover ratio is 22nd in the country. She has handed out five or more assists six times this season.
Johnson’s 17 assists against Clemson (Nov. 16) were the most by an SEC player since 2005, the second-most in program history – missing the record by one – and the most in the NCAA so far this season.
Beyond her assists, Johnson has more than doubled her scoring from last season with 9.4 points per game this season on a career-best 52.7 percent shooting, which includes 44.0 percent accuracy from 3-point range.
With her points and teammates scoring 13.9 points per game off her assists, Johnson has her hands on 25.4 percent of the Gamecocks’ offense (23.3 ppg).
Johnson has put her mark on the Gamecock defense as well, ranking fifth in the SEC with 2.7 steals per game, which includes three games of five steals.