Women's Hoops Opens SEC Action Thursday at Florida
No. 1/1 South Carolina opens its 33rd SEC season on Thursday at Florida. Tipoff on SEC Network is set for 7 p.m.
The Florida Series
The Gamecocks hold a 23-20 lead in the series behind their current 15-game win streak against the Gators. In the Staley era (beginning 2008-09), South Carolina is 15-4 against Florida.
The SEC rivals met once last season with the Gamecocks posting an 87-56 win in Gainesville on Feb. 16, 2023. The game was tight early, but South Carolina launched a 16-7 run over the final five minutes of the first quarter to establish a 14-point advantage that ballooned to a 30-point margin by halftime. The Gamecocks shot 65.0 percent in the first quarter and held the Gators to just six points in the second quarter of the victory.
By the Numbers
4 – South Carolina’s four wins against ranked opponent are tied for the most in the country.
8 – Eight Gamecocks are shooting at least 50.0 percent from the field this season.
35 – South Carolina’s six-woman bench is third in the nation with 35.6 points per game.
South Carolina is opening SEC play on the road for the second time in the last three seasons. Under head coach Dawn Staley, the Gamecocks are 10-5 in SEC openers, including a 2-2 record on the road.
Dawn Staley is the longest tenured active coach in the SEC, and her 12.2 league wins per year are the highest average in league history among coaches with more than five years in the league. Her .769 SEC winning percentage is second only to Pat Summitt among that same group.
Six different Gamecocks have led the team or tied for the team lead in scoring this season, including two players who come off the bench.
Four Gamecocks average double-figure points this season with two others averaging at least 9.0.
South Carolina has continued its tradition of defensive dominance, ranking fifth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 49.8 points per game.
Senior Te-Hina Paopao has been an immediate force for the Gamecocks on and off the box score. Her poise, leadership and offensive efficiency have steadied a young team in tense situations. She is second in the nation in 3-point percentage (.534) en route to 12.0 points per game. She is also 10th in the SEC with 3.8 assists per game and sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.5).
Senior center Kamilla Cardoso is a force on both ends of the court. She averages a double-double on the season with 13.9 points (15th in SEC) and 10.1 rebounds (20th in NCAA, 2nd in SEC). Her .617 field goal percentage is 16th in the nation, and her 3.3 blocks per game are fourth. She is also fourth on the team in assists at 2.3 per game.
Sophomore Chloe Kitts has been dominant over the last five games with 11.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game on 60.0 percent shooting.
South Carolina is 14-18 all-time in SEC openers with Dawn Staley holding a 10-5 record in those games. In their 32 seasons in the league, the Gamecocks have opened conference play on the road 12 times with a 2-10 mark (2-2 under Staley). The Gamecocks have won 10 of their last 11 SEC openers.
In all, South Carolina is 247-212 (.538) in SEC play with Staley’s share of that record coming in at 183-55 (.769).
Three for All
Long the Achilles heel for the Gamecocks, outside shooting has become a steady weapon for this season’s team. The Gamecocks are third in the nation in accuracy, hitting an SEC-best 41.5 percent from 3-point range and are making 7.2 3s per game on the season to rank fourth in the SEC. Those numbers rise to 43.3 percent accuracy and 7.3 made 3s per game against ranked opponents.
While the program record for made 3s per game is 9.2 set in 1993-94, the Staley era high is 5.8 in 2018-19.
Te-Hina Paopao’s SEC-best 53.4 percent accuracy ranks second in the country, and her 2.8 made 3s per game are second in the SEC (30th in the nation).
The Gamecocks’ other two starting guards are lighting it up with career-high numbers beyond the arc as well. Bree Hall and Raven Johnson are hitting 42.9 and 42.3 percent, respectively, from 3-point range. Hall has hit at least 50.0 percent from outside six times this season, including her last two outings and ranks 12th in the SEC with 1.8 made 3s per game.
The Gamecocks continue to have a dominant rebounding effort, ranking second in the nation with 50.7 rebounds per game. According to Her Hoop Stats, South Carolina is fifth in the nation in rebounding percentage, securing 60.4 percent of the opportunities actually rebounded.
Their offensive glass work is equally strong, ranking 10th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage at 41.8 (Her Hoop Stats). The Gamecocks’ 14.9 offensive boards have yielded 18.2 second-chance points, turning each offensive board into an average of 1.22 points.
Three Gamecocks are among the SEC’s top-20 rebounders, led by Kamilla Cardoso’s 10.1 average, which ranks 20th in the nation (2nd in SEC). Chloe Kitts is next in line at 7.2 per game to rank 15th in th SEC. Ashlyn Watkins is close behind at 6.8 to rank 18th in the SEC.
Cardoso’s 3.0 offensive boards per game are eighth in the SEC, and Watkins is next in line in with 2.8 offensive rebounds per game to rank 10th in the league.
Sophomore Chloe Kitts worked her way into the starting lineup this season, and proved immediately what Staley always saw in the young 6-foot-2 forward – physicality, basketball IQ and tenacity.
Kitts has scored in double figures eight times, including her first career 20-point game (21 at Bowling Green, Dec. 19), and has two double-doubles. Over the last five games, she is the team’s top rebounder at 9.4 boards per game and has scored 11.4 points per game on 60.0 percent shooting in that stretch.
She earned her first career double-double against #14/11 Maryland (Nov. 12). Those 13 points and 10 rebounds came in just 21 minutes on the court, and she powered home eight of her 13 points in just six minutes of the second quarter to guide the Gamecocks to a 12-point halftime lead.
The talented forward came up big at #24/24 North Carolina (Nov. 30) with 11 second-half points, highlighted by clutch mid-range jumpers and 3-of-4 free throw shooting that included a pair of makes that made it a two-possession game with 24 seconds left
On the season, Kitts averages 10.8 points and 7.2 rebounds, which ranks 15th in the SEC. She is shooting 52.7 percent from the field and is second on the team with 34 made free throws.