Rivalry returns as Gamecocks head to face Clemson


South Carolina guard Kaela Davis releases the ball against Auburn guard Erica Sanders during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017, in Auburn, Ala. South Carolina won 73-47. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

CLEMSON, S.C. — The women’s basketball point in the Palmetto Series is up for grabs Thursday, Nov. 16, when No. 4/2 South Carolina travels to Clemson for a 7 p.m. tipoff at Littlejohn Coliseum. The Gamecocks and Tigers are both 2-0 to open the season.

As it has for the last four seasons, tonight’s renewal of the South Carolina-Clemson rivalry reunites Virginia alumnae Dawn Staley and Audra Smith. The two head coaches were teammates on Virginia’s 1989-92 teams, helping the Cavaliers to three NCAA Final Fours, including a spot in the 1991 championship game. In the head coaching battle, Staley has come out on top in each of their previous four meetings.

The winner of tonight’s game will earn that school another point in the Certified SC Grown Palmetto Series between South Carolina and Clemson, which has been won by the Gamecocks in the last two seasons. The Gamecocks currently lead the 2017-18 Palmetto Series 4-2 with points available this month in women’s basketball and football. The Gamecocks picked up points in cross country, women’s soccer, women’s golf and volleyball; while Clemson won its points in men’s soccer and men’s golf.

Clemson picked up a pair of wins to start the season, out-scoring its opponents by 10.5 points per game. Two Tigers average in double-figure points — sophomore post player Kobi Thornton (12.0) and junior guard Danielle Edwards (11.5). Offensively, the Tigers are still working through the system, averaging just 48.5 points per game on 34.4 percent shooting. But, they’ve picked up wins with a stingy defense that has allowed just 38.0 points per game on 24.1 percent shooting and forced 19.5 turnovers per game.

Contested at least once every season since 1975-76, the series is currently in the Tigers’ favor 33-29, but the Gamecocks have won the last seven meetings, matching the longest win streak by either team in series history. Clemson hit that streak first, winning seven games from Feb. 6, 1996 through Nov. 28, 2001. South Carolina’s seven straight wins have come by an average of 26.4 points with a high of 58 (99-41) on Nov. 20, 2014. Clemson’s last win in the series was a double-overtime affair at Littlejohn, which the Tigers claimed 94-92 on Nov. 19, 2009. Growing up in nearby Hopkins, S.C., Gamecock senior A’ja Wilson knows the depth of the rivalry between the schools. In three games against the Tigers, she averaged 15.0 points and 6.7 rebounds. In last season’s 83-61 win at Colonial Life Arena, the two-time SEC Player of the Year posted her first double-double against the Tigers with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

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