Seniors Close Out Regular Season, (3) USC Hosts LSU Sunday
By: USC SID
COLUMBIA, S.C. (USC SID) — No. 3/2 South Carolina closes out the regular season Sun., Feb. 28, at 2 p.m. against LSU at Colonial Life Arena. Ending the regular season at home for just the second time in four seasons is fitting to celebrate the 2016 Senior Class that is the foundation on which the program’s unprecedented success has been built. With 115 wins in the last four years, it is the winningest class in program history, and the Gamecocks eye one more piece of history as a win Sunday will wrap up a perfect 16-0 SEC record for just the second time in league history.
- South Carolina will honor its five senior student-athletes as well as three team managers prior to tipoff today. The bulk of the group signed with Staley when the head coach’s long-term vision for the program was still somewhat fuzzy, trusting in her leadership to clarify the path to becoming the most successful senior class in program history.
- The Gamecock defense has begun to realize its full potential in the closing weeks of the regular season, allowing opponents just 53.8 points per game on 31.9 percent field goal shooting over the last five outings, including 47.3 points per game on 28.6 percent shooting in the last three contests. The most stark example is Ole Miss’ output from Jan. 28 at Colonial Life Arena compared to Feb. 25 on its home court. The Rebels shot a South Carolina opponent season-high 48.1 percent from the field on Jan. 28 and a Gamecock opponent season-low 22.2 percent on Feb. 25. Their 62 points against the Gamecocks in Columbia tied the most by a Gamecock SEC opponent at that point, while their 45 points in Thursday’s meeting in Oxford were the second-fewest by an SEC foe this season.
- The Gamecock starting frontcourt each broke a school record in Thursday’s game at Ole Miss. With the last of her five blocks at Ole Miss (Feb. 25), sophomore forward A’ja Wilson broke the South Carolina single-season blocks record. Entering the game with 79 blocks, she was four short of the record (83), which now stands at her current 84. Junior Alaina Coates’ outstanding rebounding this season continued to catapult her up the program’s charts in that category. Already the program record holder for SEC double-doubles in a career (20) and a season (10), she became the program’s career defensive rebound record holder with 12 of her 14 boards at Ole Miss coming on the defensive end. She now has 607 in her career, topping Marsha Williams’ previous record of 599 (1990-93).
- While the close games have gotten all the attention this season, South Carolina has won 20 of its 27 games by double digits, including nine by at least 20 points.
- Leading the SEC in field goal percentage in league play (.455) and ranking 18th in the nation overall (.458), the Gamecocks posted just their second game of the season shooting at least 50.0 percent in each quarter of a game when they shot 66.7, 57.1, 50.0 and 50.0 in each quarter, respectively, at Ole Miss (Feb. 25).
BY THE NUMBERS – SENIOR CLASS EDITION
3 SEC regular-season championships (2014, 2015, 2016)
5 Members of this year’s senior class – three four-year members (Dozier, Mitchell, Sessions), a fifth-year senior (Roy) and a first-year senior (Imobvioh)
13 Entries in the program’s all-time top 10 by members of this class – 10 by Mitchell (including six top-five entries), 3 by Roy
55 SEC wins in the last four years, more than any other four-year span in program history
LSU SERIES NOTES
The Lady Tigers lead the series 22-9, but five of the Gamecocks’ wins have come in the last five meetings by an average of 18.2 points. South Carolina has a winning record against LSU in the Dawn Staley era (beginning 2008-09) at 6-5 with three of those wins coming in 2014-15 and three at Colonial Life Arena. Last season, South Carolina completed the rare three-game sweep of a conference foe when the Gamecocks topped the Lady Tigers in Baton Rouge, Columbia and in the SEC Tournament in North Little Rock, Ark. The final game was the closest of the three with South Carolina claiming a 74-54 decision after trailing by as many as 11 points in the first half. Hot shooting in the second half, 78.3 percent from the field, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range, erased a four-point halftime deficit, aided largely by Louisiana native Tina Roy, who hit five 3s and handed out four assists off the bench. The Gamecocks shot over 50.0 percent from the field and out-rebounded the Lady Tigers in each of the three games.
Junior center Alaina Coates joined senior guard Tiffany Mitchell in the Gamecocks’ 1,000-point club against Missouri (Jan. 10), making it the second-straight season a Gamecock team has had multiple 1,000-point scorers. Before Mitchell and then-senior Aleighsa Welch teammed up on the 2014-15 squad, the last team to boast more than one 1,000-point scorer as 2001-02 when Shaunzinski Gortman and Jocelyn Penn both joined the club. In program history there are now 11 seasons that featured multiple 1,000-point scorers. With sophomore forward A’ja Wilson closing in on the 1,000-point mark (currently at 919), the 2015-16 team could become the fifth Gamecock unit to play with three 1,000-point scorers, the first since 1998-99.
FOR THE RECORD
The Gamecock veterans have made a steady assault on the program’s record books, both individually and as a group.
- Blocks (game) – 16 vs. Winthrop, 12/13/15
- Win Streak – 22 games, tied 2014-15 start
Alaina Coates ranks among the program’s top 10 in seven career stats and two season stats, including the following three school records:
- SEC Double-Doubles (season) – 10
- SEC Double-Doubles (career) – 20
- Defensive Rebounds (career) – 607
- Blocks (game) – 10 vs. Winthrop, 12/13/15
Tiffany Mitchell ranks among the program’s top five in six career categories with four other top-10 appearances, including the following school records:
- Games Started (career) – 128
- Consecutive Games Started – 103
A’ja Wilson ranks among the program’s top five in blocks in a career, in a game and holds the following season record:
- Blocks (season) – 84
Once again this season, South Carolina is among the nation’s best shot-blocking teams, ranked 20th in the country with 5.4 blocks per game behind two of the best in the SEC – A’ja Wilson, who leads the league and ranks 10th in the nation with 3.2 per game, and Alaina Coates, who is the SEC’s active blocked shot leader at 163 in her career. While Coates continues her assault on the program’s career record of 177 (Lakesha Tolliver, 2004-07), she broke the 38-year-old single-game record when she completed the program’s first triple-double to include blocks with 10 against Winthrop (Dec. 13). With her five blocks at Ole Miss (Feb. 25), Wilson broke the school record for blocks in a season, previously 83 by Elem Ibiam in 2013-14. Her now 84 blocks include 52 in SEC play, which erased the previous school record of 44, and already give her the career record for SEC blocks at 84.