USC Women Begin SEC Tournament Friday

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By Sports Department

(USC SID) -- No. 5/7 South Carolina kicks off SEC Tournament action on Fri., Mar. 7, at noon against the winner of Thursday's Georgia/Vanderbilt game. The top-seeded Gamecocks (26-3, 14-2 SEC) are aiming at the program's first SEC Tournament title and momentum heading into their third-straight NCAA Tournament.

Complete game notes and video of head coach Dawn Staley, junior forward Aleighsa Welch and sophomore guard Tiffany Mitchell previewing the tournament can be found at:
http://www.gamecocksonline.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/030614aab.html

Game Information
SEC Tournament
Opponent: Georgia or Vanderbilt
Date: Friday, March 7, 2014, Noon
Site: Duluth, Ga.
Arena: The Arena at Gwinnett Center (10,309)
TV: SportSouth (Dave Neal, play-by-play; LaChina Robinson, analyst)
Radio: 107.5 FM The Game, 1320 AM The Fan (Brad Muller); GamecocksOnline.com; Sirius Ch. 93/XM Ch. 199 (SEC Broadcast)
Live Video: ESPN3
Live Stats: SECsports.com

South Carolina Notables

South Carolina won its first SEC regular-season championship this season, claiming the title outright with Thursday's win over Georgia. It is the program's sixth regular-season conference title, but the first in the SEC. The Gamecocks exceeded all expectations with the title as the coaches predicted a fifth-place finish for them and the media rated them seventh.
The Gamecocks claimed four of the SEC's six individual postseason awards, including the program's first SEC Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year (coaches) and 6th Player of the Year honors. Dawn Staley earned her first SEC Coach of the Year award while Tiffany Mitchell became just the second sophomore in SEC history to earn Player of the Year honors and Alaina Coates became the league's first Freshman of the Year to also earn another "of the Year" recognition.
South Carolina had two players on the All-SEC First Team for just the second time in school history with Aleighsa Welch and Mitchell on the list. They join the 2002 tandem of Shaunzinski Gortman and Jocelyn Penn. With Coates earning second-team honors, this is the third-straight season in which three Gamecocks have earned all-conference recognition.
Junior center Elem Ibiam and Mitchell captured All-Defensive Team spots, making the Gamecocks the only team with a representative on all four of the teams named (1st, 2nd, All-Defensive, All-Freshman).

Notes
A South Carolina Win Would...

Be the Gamecocks' third-straight SEC Tournament quarterfinal victory.
Give head coach Dawn Staley a 5-5 record all-time in SEC Tournament action.
Make the Gamecocks 3-3 all-time in SEC Tournament games played in Duluth.

By the Numbers
1 Player who ranks among the SEC's top 20 in scoring and rebounding and its top 20 in assists and steals in league play - Tiffany Mitchell (9th, 16.2 ppg; 16th, 6.3 rpg; 11th, 3.5 apg; 7th, 1.8 spg)
1 Double-double needed by center Alaina Coates to tie the Gamecock freshman record for double-doubles in a season (9 by Kelsey Bone in 2008-09)
2.0 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 last five seasons
4 Blocks needed by Aleighsa Welch this season to match her career total entering this season (45)
5 SEC Freshman of the Week selections for center Alaina Coates, the most ever by a Gamecock and tying the SEC record of five by LSU's Danielle Ballard (2013) and Georgia's Jasmine James (2010)
12 Gamecocks all-time to record 1,000 points while also amassing at least 650 rebounds after the newest member, Aleighsa Welch, recorded her 1,000th point in the first four minutes of the win at Kentucky (Feb. 20)
13 Individual 20-point games this season by the Gamecocks - five each by Alaina Coates and Tiffany Mitchell and three by Aleighsa Welch
13 Games this season in which sophomore guard Tiffany Mitchell has had a hand in at least one-third of the offense (points plus assists) - highlighted by helping to deliver 52.2 percent of the Gamecocks' 69 points against Winthrop (Dec. 20) - during which the Gamecocks are 12-1
13 Games in which South Carolina has shot at least 50.0 percent from the field this season - including two games over 60.0 percent (Charleston Southern, Ole Miss) - after reaching the mark just 12 times in the previous five seasons under Staley
50.1 Percent of South Carolina's points this season scored in the paint (1,074 of 2, 144) - the Gamecocks have scored at least 50.0 percent of their points in the paint in 14 games this season, including five of at least 60.0 percent (Chas. Sthrn., 70.7%; at USC, 60.0%; UK, 61.8%; at Vandy, 75.4%; at UT, 75.4%)
58.1 Percent of South Carolina's field goals this season that have been assisted (432 of 743) - the highest percentage of the Dawn Staley era
58 Blocked shots by center Alaina Coates this season, setting a new Gamecock freshman record and fourth in school history
75 Blocks by junior center Elem Ibiam this season, resetting the school single-season record previously held by Lakesha Tolliver (60 in 2006-07) - her 114 career blocks rank are tied for sixth (record is 177 by Tolliver)


Five-Second Count
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 has a group that is designed for offensive efficiency. The Gamecocks are scoring more (73.9 ppg, 57th in nation) and more efficiently (.481 FG %age - 1st in SEC, 5th in nation) than at any time in the Staley era. And, after seasons of talented guards generating their own offense, Staley's 2013-14 offense starts with getting the ball inside - three primary post players combine to score 48.2 percent of the team's points - and on ball movement creating the best shots as 58.1 percent of made field goals have been assisted. Defense is still a staple of the program with the Gamecocks ranking second in the SEC and fifth in the nation, allowing just 54.8 points per game.


SEC Tournament Tally
South Carolina is 8-22 all-time in the SEC Tournament, but the Gamecocks have posted a 4-5 record in their now five visits with head coach Dawn Staley. South Carolina reached the event semifinals for the first time in school history in 2012, upending third-seeded Georgia in the quarterfinals to set up a showdown with second-seed Tennessee. Prior to earning this season's top seed, the Gamecocks have been seeded among the top four teams just once - at the 2002 tournament, during which they lost in their first game against Arkansas.


Record Record
South Carolina's success this season ranks among the best in the program's history. With their win at No. 15/15 Kentucky (Feb. 20), the Gamecocks set the program record for SEC wins in a season (12) while also topping the previous regular-season wins record (24). The 2012-13 team previously held both records with 11 SEC wins and 23 victories prior to postseason play. The 1978-79 team also won 23 games before opening SCAIAW State Championship play en route to the NWIT title. South Carolina's now 14 conference wins breaks the 1989-90 team's mark of 13 in the Metro Conference.

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