Friday, October 31, 2014
Women's SEC Home Opener On Sunday
COLUMBIA, S.C. (USC SID) -- No. 13/12 South Carolina (13-1, 1-0 SEC) hosts Vanderbilt (12-2, 1-0 SEC) in the Gamecocks' first home SEC game of the season on Sun., Jan. 5, at 1 p.m. at Colonial Life Arena. Both teams won their SEC openers Thursday night as the Gamecocks picked up the win at Arkansas and Vanderbilt defeated No. 19/18 Georgia in Nashville. South Carolina freshman Alaina Coates (Irmo, S.C./Dutch Fork) is looking to extend her string of double-doubles to three on Sunday after strong showings in the last two contests.
South Carolina Notables
Sophomore guard Tiffany Mitchell earned a spot on ESPN's Graham Hayes' "10 Rising to the Occasion" for her all-around contributions to the Gamecocks' 12-1 record. Ranked among the SEC's top 10 scorers at 15.1 ppg, Mitchell also leads the team in total assists (49) and steals (33, 2.4/gm for 5th in SEC). She is the best backcourt rebounder and is shooting 53.1 percent from the field, including 48.5 percent from 3-point range.
Junior forward Aleighsa Welch has continued the steady play that has been a hallmark of her Gamecock career. Her 14.0 points and 7.3 rebounds per game come in hard-nosed efforts that can be over-shadowed by the success of younger teammates, but the value of her reliability can not be over-stated. She has not scored fewer than eight points in any game this season and shot under 50.0 percent just once. Her court vision and ability to run the break have her averaging 2.1 assists this season as well.
Freshman Alaina Coates' arrival this season has given the Gamecocks something they have not had in the Dawn Staley era - a pair of physically imposing post players. Matching junior Elem Ibiam's 6-foot-4 stature, Coates quickly made a name for herself with 20 points in her collegiate debut. After a brief setback in early December, the Irmo, S.C., native has reasserted herself, and opponents are feeling the pressure. Coates made her SEC debut at Arkansas and posted her fourth double-double of the season while blocking a career-high five shots to tie the Gamecock freshman single-game record. Over the last three games, she has averaged 17.0 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.7 blocks.
A South Carolina Win Would...
Be the Gamecocks' fourth straight over Vanderbilt.
Make it the third season in the Dawn Staley era in which the Gamecocks won their first home SEC game of the season.
Bring head coach Dawn Staley's SEC regular-season record to .500 at 40-40.
By the Numbers
1.4 Average places by which the SEC coaches have under-rated South Carolina in their preseason poll compared to where the Gamecocks actually finished the season in the Dawn Staley era (five seasons)
3 Games this season in which five Gamecocks have scored in double figures, which had happened just five previous times in the Dawn Staley era
5 Defensive rebounds by freshman Alaina Coates during a seven-minute scoring drought for the Gamecocks to help hold Arkansas (Jan. 2) to just eight points during the skid
5 Different Gamecocks who have been the team's high scorer in a game this season - Alaina Coates (Charleston Southern, at San Diego State, SC State), Aleighsa Welch (LA Tech, at Clemson, vs. UNC), Asia Dozier (CofC), Elem Ibiam (Seton Hall, Charlotte) and Tiffany Mitchell (at USC, NC Central, Winthrop, Savannah St., at Arkansas)
6 Individual 20-point games this season by the Gamecock - three by Alaina Coates (CSU, at SDSU), two by Tiffany Mitchell (at USC, Winthrop) and one by Aleighsa Welch (vs. UNC)
7 Games in which South Carolina has shot at least 50.0 percent from the field this season after reaching the mark just 12 times in the previous five seasons under Staley
8 Games this season in which South Carolina has scored at least 50.0 percent of its points in the paint, including scoring 70 of 99 points against Charleston Southern (Nov. 8) inside
10 Opponents who have been held to 55 or fewer points by the Gamecocks this season, helping the Gamecocks rank third in the nation in scoring defense (48.5 ppg)
11 Shots blocked by South Carolina at Arkansas (Jan. 2), the most against an SEC team in school history - freshman Alaina Coates (5) and junior Aleighsa Welch (4) combined for nine of those, including seven in the second half
28 Entries for the Gamecocks in the last 38 Associated Press Top 25 Polls
60.6 Percent of field goals made this season that have been assisted
Vanderbilt Series Notes
The Commodores lead the series 21-9, but the Gamecocks are in the midst of their longest win streak of the series at three. In fact, South Carolina has won four of the last five meetings. The Gamecocks are 6-8 against Vanderbilt in Columbia. South Carolina won the last meeting in Colonial Life Arena, 64-48 on Jan. 10, 2013, in the lone meeting that season after posting the program's first two-game series sweep of the Commodores in 2011-12. In last year's meeting, Aleighsa Welch led the way with 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting, and Elem Ibiam added nine points on 4-of-5 shooting in just 13 minutes off the bench. The win came largely on the defensive end where the Gamecocks held one of the nation's premier shooting teams to just 26.5 percent from the field, including 20.0 percent in the first half to establish a 16-point lead at the break. Vanderbilt's last win in the series was a 74-60 overtime decision on Feb. 27, 2011, in Colonial Life Arena.
For the first time in her tenure at South Carolina, head coach Dawn's Staley's Gamecocks look different - on the court and in the box score. After seasons of building around defense, Staley finally as a group that is designed for offensive efficiency. The Gamecocks are scoring more (75.6 ppg) and more efficiently (.486 FG %age - 2nd in SEC, 7th in nation) than at any time in the Staley era. And, after seasons of talented guards generating their own offense, Staley's 2013-14 success is predicated on getting the ball inside - three primary post players combine to score 47.2 percent of the team's points - and on ball movement creating the best shots as 60.6 percent of made field goals have been assisted. Defense is still a staple of the program with the Gamecocks ranking the best in the SEC and the nation, allowing just 48.5 points per game. Only four opponents this season have scored 55 or more points against South Carolina.
Life in the League
South Carolina is 104-197 (.346) all-time in its 23rd season of SEC regular-season play. The Gamecocks are 65-85 (.433) in SEC games played in Columbia with a 38-112 record (.253) on the road. Under head coach Dawn Staley, the Gamecocks have a 39-40 (.494) SEC record, which includes a 2-12 slate in her first season at the helm. The 36 SEC regular-season victories in the previous four seasons are the best four-year mark for the program. South Carolina finished the 2012-13 season tied for fourth in the SEC, marking the third time the Gamecocks finished among the top four. The program-record 11 SEC wins that season were enough for the second-straight fourth-place finish under head coach Dawn Staley. In fact, since joining the league for the 1991-92 season, South Carolina has finished in the top five just five times with three of those coming under Staley, who has accounted for 37.5 percent of the program's 104 SEC regular-season victories. Overall, Staley boasts a 138-65 (.680) record in league play, including eight seasons leading her Temple teams to a 99-25 (.798) Atlantic 10 mark.
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