Sunday Top-Five Battle Set for USC and Lousiville
|COLUMBIA, S.C. — No. 3/3 South Carolina continues its tough early schedule on Sunday with a 1 p.m. showdown against No. 4/4 Louisville in the Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge in Springfield, Mass. Televised nationally on ESPN2, the game features two of the nation’s top-20 offenses both in scoring average and field goal percentage, led by the Gamecocks’ 89.0 points per game (eighth in the nation) and 50.2 percent shooting (fifth in the nation).
Dates: Sun., Nov. 26, 2016
Tipoff: 1 p.m.
Location: Springfield, Mass.
Arena: MassMutual Center (8,000)
Watch On: ESPN2 (Tiffany Greene, play-by-play; Debbie Antonelli, analyst)
Broadcast: 107.5 The Game (Brad Muller)
SOUTH CAROLINA NOTABLES
- • The head coaches in today’s game know each other well, despite their programs not meeting since the 1991-92 season. During South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley’stwo-year tenure as head coach of the USA Basketball’s U18 and U19 national teams, Louisville head coach Jeff Walz was an assistant on her staff. The duo helped the United States to the 2014 U18 FIBA Americas Championship and then the 2015 U19 FIBA World Championship. Both teams featured tournament MVP and current Gamecock junior A’ja Wilson as well.
- • Senior center Alaina Coates has picked up where she left off last season, averaging a double-double while playing just 24.0 minutes per game. Her three double-doubles this season rank seventh in the nation.
- • Junior forward A’ja Wilson leads the SEC in blocked shots per game at 2.75 per game. With two blocks against Saint Peter’s, she broke the program’s career blocks record now set at her 179. The mark seems destined to change hands several times this season as teammate Coates is just behind with 176.
- • South Carolina’s junior transfers from the ACC — Kaela Davis and Allisha Gray — established themselves as key contributors immediately, averaging 16.0 and 15.8 points, respectively, while leading the team in assists.
FIVE SECOND COUNT
South Carolina is one of two programs in the nation to appear in every AP top five since the start of the 2014-15 season. The Gamecocks have played in four of the last five NCAA Sweet 16s, including the 2015 Final Four. In the SEC, South Carolina is the three-time reigning regular-season champion, including last season’s 16-0 record, and claimed the last two SEC Tournaments.
BY THE NUMBERS
2 Games this season in which two Gamecocks have scored at least 20 points — at #7/6 Ohio State, Hampton — already matching last season’s total
3 Teams in the nation that return multiple AP All-Americans this season, including the Gamecocks
5 Categories in which South Carolina leads the SEC — scoring offense (8th in the nation), field goal percentage (5th in the nation), rebounding margin (11th in nation), assists per game (19th in nation) and blocks per game (24th in nation)
37 Points the Gamecocks scored in the first quarter against Saint Peter’s (Nov. 22), the most in a quarter since the NCAA moved to the format last season
LOUISVILLE SERIES NOTES
South Carolina leads the series against its former Metro Conference rival 16-4. The two teams last met on Nov. 29, 1991, in the Downeast Classic in Bangor, Maine, in the’ first season since the Gamecocks left the Metro for the SEC. The Cardinals dominated in a 74-47 victory that snapped a 10-game losing skid to the Gamecocks.
The Gamecocks are 110-83 all-time on a neutral court, including a 63-40 mark in regular-season contests. South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley is 32-17 in games played at neutral sites, including a 15-5 slate in the regular season.
South Carolina is 4-0 all-time in the state of Massachusetts, having played in regular-season tournaments in Worcester in 1988-89 and the Harvard Invitational in Cambridge in 1996-97.
Ranked third in this week’s AP Poll, the Gamecocks are in the midst of the nation’s third-longest active top-10 ranking streak (53), trailing just UConn (216) and Notre Dame (109) and well ahead of fourth-place Baylor (38).
TOUGH ROAD AHEAD
Head coach Dawn Staley did not shy away from a challenging schedule this season, despite have to replace five seniors from last season’s squad. The Gamecocks’ schedule is ranked the fifth-toughest in the nation based on opponent winning percentage, trailing just Notre Dame, Washington State, Kentucky and Tennessee, respectively.
South Carolina’s schedule features 11 games against teams ranked in either the AP or USA Today Coaches Top 25 this week, including five against non-conference opponents — Ohio State, Louisville, Texas, UCLA and UConn. Just one of those five games are in the friendly confines of Colonial Life Arena.
Senior Alaina Coates and junior A’ja Wilson feature prominently in the SEC’s active leader boards this season.
Coates is running away with the double-double chart at 45 and the rebounding mark at 980 — more than 350 more than the second-place player. Coates’ 176 career blocks are just behind league leader Wilson’s 179, more than 60 ahead of third place. Coates is second in scoring at 1,307 and third in field goals made (487).
In addition to leading the blocks list, Wilson is third in double-doubles with 19 and sixth in scoring with 1,069 career points. She is fifth in rebounding (548).
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
South Carolina averages 48.0 points in the paint this season, making up 53.9 percent of the Gamecocks’ offense. No opponent has out-scored South Carolina in the paint this season, and the Gamecocks have out-paced their opponents in that space by 30.0 points per game. Their interior advantage has been at least 20 points three times, including a season-high 44 points against Maine (Nov. 21).
THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAM COATES
After closing her junior season averaging a double-double both overall and in SEC play, senior center Alaina Coates is back at it this season. The Irmo, S.C., native is sixth in the nation in rebounding with an SEC-best 12.5 boards per game and sits seventh in the SEC with her team-high 16.5 points per game. Her 76.9 percent field goal shooting ranks second in the country, and her three double-doubles are seventh.
In the midst of one of the most productive careers for a post player in South Carolina history, Coates is 20 rebounds shy of becoming just the third Gamecock all-time to record 1,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds. Her 45 career double-doubles are second in program history, trailing only Gamecock legend Sheila Foster’s school-record 72. Coates is also a defensive force, ranking third in career blocked shots at 176, just one out of second place.
Junior transfer Allisha Gray may be the Gamecocks’ most quiet and consistent assailant. The unassuming six-foot guard amassed 1,000 points in her first two seasons at North Carolina and opened her South Carolina career with a 24-point outing at No. 7/6 Ohio State that included 10-of-18 shooting and some of the most momentum-killing baskets of the game. She has scored in double figures every game this season with sniper-like accuracy to rank 12th in the SEC in scoring (15.8 ppg) and fifth in field goal percentage (.535).
Gray’s contributions go beyond the scoring column, though. With 15 assists against just three turnovers she is eighth in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (5.0) while ranking among the SEC’s top 10 in assists per game (3.8). She led the team in rebounding against Saint Peter’s and averages 4.8 per contest.