COLUMBIA, SC Jan. 10, 2015 – With over 12,000 tickets already distributed for the game, No. 1/1 South Carolina looks for home-court advantage against No. 10/11 Wildcats in key SEC showdown Sunday at Colonial Life Arena. Doors will open at 11:30 a.m. with tipoff at 1 p.m. on ESPN2.
Opponent: Kentucky (14-2, 3-0 SEC)
Date: Sunday, January 11, 2015 | 1 p.m. | Box Office Opens 10:30 a.m. | Doors Open 11:30 a.m.
Site: Columbia, S.C.
Arena: Colonial Life Arena (18,000)
Tickets: $7 adult, $4 youth (17 and under)
Promotions: Pre-game Chalk Talk Presented by AllSouth Federal Credit Union (season-ticket holders); 6,000 AllSouth Federal Credit Union Rally Towels; Read with the Gamecocks Winners; Postgame Instructional Clinic (8th grade and under)
Broadcast: ESPN2 (Pam Ward, pxp; Carolyn Peck, analyst); WatchESPN
Radio: 107.5 The Game (Brad Muller); GamecocksOnline.com
Live Stats: GamecocksOnline.com
Series History: UK leads 32-21
South Carolina Notables
- Today’s meeting between the Gamecocks and Wildcats is the second top-10 showdown in as many seasons of the series. In the first meeting of the 2013-14 season, then-No. 10 South Carolina topped then-No. 9 Kentucky 68-58 here in Colonial Life Arena.
- The Gamecocks’ 15-0 start is the best in program history and broke the school record for longest win streak. The previous record was held by the 1985-86 team, which put together 13 wins from Jan. 25 through March 3.
- South Carolina scored in triple digits for the first time in SEC regular-season play in its 102-59 victory at Alabama Thursday night, but it was the first time since Dec. 7 (at Duke) that no Gamecock posted a double-double.
- The Gamecocks shot 63.8 percent from the field at Alabama, the highest field goal percentage of the Dawn Staley era, the best since hitting 65.2 percent against East Tennessee State on Dec. 19, 2000, and the highest in a road game in program history.
- In the last two seasons (49 games), senior Aleighsa Welch has shot 50.0 percent or better in all but 10 games, including three perfect shooting games. This season, SEC play has brought out the best in Welch, who is currently shooting 87.5 percent (14-of-16) in league games.
A South Carolina Win Would…
- Extend the school record for longest win streak to 16.
- Make the Gamecocks 4-0 in SEC play for just the second time in school history, matching the 2002 team for the program’s best opening SEC record at 4-0.
- Be the Gamecocks’ 26th straight at Colonial Life Arena to break the tie with UConn for the longest active home win streak in the nation.
By the Numbers
0 Gamecocks who set new career scoring highs despite the team posting a program SEC regular-season record 102 points in the win at Alabama (Jan. 8)
1 Block needed by senior Elem Ibiam to tie Michelle Murray (1990-93) for second on the program’s career list
1 Game this season in which the Gamecocks have allowed a team to shoot over 40.0 percent – Charlotte (Dec. 4), 45.3 percent
2 Gamecocks shooting over 85.0 percent from the field in SEC play – Aleighsa Welch (87.5) and Alaina Coates (85.7)
3 Remaining unbeaten teams in the nation (through games of Jan. 8) – South Carolina, Mississippi State and Princeton
4 Home games in which South Carolinas has played in front of over 10,000 fans, helping the Gamecocks lead the nation in average attendance (10,842)
5 Gamecocks who have led the team in assists this season – Tina Roy (5), Khadijah Sessions (5), Asia Dozier (4), Tiffany Mitchell (3) and Bianca Ceuvas (2)
7 Games this season in which junior Tiffany Mitchell’s 3-point field goal percentage was higher than that of her two-point attempts
7 Double-doubles by Alaina Coates this season, tied for the SEC lead, including four in the last six games
8 Games in which South Carolina’s bench has tied or out-scored its starters
10 Games this season in which at least one Gamecock has posted a double-double
11 3-pointers made by the Gamecocks at Alabama, the most in a road game since hitting the same number at Auburn on Feb. 15, 2004
21.0 Points per game by which the Gamecocks are out-scoring opponents in the paint (41.6-20.6)
67.9 Percent of the Gamecocks’ field goals that have been assisted this season, helping them rank fourth in the nation with 19.8 apg
790 Career rebounds by senior Aleighsa Welch, more than any other current SEC player and 10th in school history
Kentucky Series History
The Wildcats lead the overall series 32-12 with an 8-5 advantage during South Carolina’s Dawn Staley era. The Gamecocks hold a 3-2 edge over the last two seasons. South Carolina and Kentucky squared off three times last season with the Gamecocks winning both regular-season contests and the Wildcats winning in the SEC Tournament semifinals. Over the three games, Aleighsa Welch led the offense with 16.3 points per game – posting a double-double in each of the regular-season outings – while Alaina Coates controlled the glass at 10.7 rebounds per game. South Carolina shot 45.6 percent from the field against the Wildcats last season and out-rebounded them 45.3-32.0. The Wildcats’ lone win in the three-game stretch came behind solid shooting from the 3-point line and the ability to get to the free throw line. The Gamecocks are 15-9 against the Wildcats in games played in Columbia, including wins in the last two meetings at Colonial Life Arena for a 4-2 home record against Kentucky in the Staley era. The Wildcats’ last win on South Carolina’s home floor was a 66-58 decision on Jan. 15, 2012.
South Carolina is facing its third ranked opponent of the season today and its second top-10 match-up. The Gamecocks are 67-216 all-time against ranked teams with a 17-39 record in the Dawn Staley era. Under Staley, South Carolina is 5-16 against ranked opponents at Colonial Life Arena, 8-12 on the road and 4-11 at neutral sites.
This week’s rankings extended South Carolina’s string of Associated Press top-10 appearances to 20, the longest in program history, and is the Gamecocks’ seventh in the No. 1 spot. The only teams to hold the position more often in the last five seasons are Baylor (39 weeks) and UConn (33). The AP’s No. 1 ranking on Nov. 24 was the program’s first, besting the No. 2 spot the Gamecocks held for five times in their history – Nov. 17, 2014; Preseason 2014-15; Jan. 2, 1982; Dec. 27, 1981; and Dec. 20, 1981. The Gamecocks opened this season with their highest preseason ranking from the organization, coming in at No. 2 to best the previous high of No. 4 heading into the 1981-82 season.
Home Sweet Home
The Gamecocks are in the midst of unprecedented success at Colonial Life Arena, having won their last 25 games on their home court, including the facility’s first perfect season in 2013-14. That 16-0 mark alone matched the previous record for win streak at the Arena, originally set Jan. 20, 2002-Jan. 9, 2003. South Carolina’s last loss at Colonial Life Arena was a 50-48 decision to then-No. 14 Texas A&M on Feb. 10, 2013. The longest home win streak in school history is 32 games, which spanned three seasons. That streak began with a win over Clemson on Dec. 10, 1977, and ended with a win over Tennessee Tech on March 4, 1980. The stretch included a perfect 11-0 record in 1978-79 at Carolina Coliseum (9-0) and the Sol Blatt P.E. Center (2-0). Overall, South Carolina is 140-58 (.707) at Colonial Life Arena, including a 74-25 (.747) mark under head coach Dawn Staley. In the now 41-year history of the program, the Gamecocks are 385-155 (.713) in home games.
While every competitor wants to be a starter, the Gamecocks have shown that the bench can be just as productive a position. The South Carolina bench has tied or out-scored its starting teammates eight times this season, including all three SEC contests, and has out-scored the entire opposing team four times – Clemson (Nov. 20), San Diego State (Nov. 23), NC Central (Dec. 1). In all, the bench has accounted for 49.0 percent of the Gamecocks’ points this season. Of the 62 double-figures games turned in so far this season, 31 of them have come from the bench – A’ja Wilson (14), Alaina Coates (8), Bianca Cuevas (4), Tina Roy (2), Jatarie White (2) and Asia Dozier (1).
Handled with Care
Head coach Dawn Staley recently referred to the point guard position as one of “service” to teammates, a job designed to create stars our of her teammates. More than just her point guards have embraced the theory as the Gamecocks rank fourth in the nation in assists per game with an SEC-best 19.8 per game and third in the country with a 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio. Living up to the legend of their head coach, the Gamecocks have handed out 20 or more assists nine times this season, including a Staley-era high of 26 against NC Central. In all, South Carolina has assisted on 297 of its 455 made field goals this season (.679). Last season’s team set the mark for best percentage of the Staley era at .577. Three Gamecocks rank among the SEC’s top 15 in assists, led by junior Khadijah Sessions in ninth at 3.3 per game. The sure-handed Sessions is 12th in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio with an SEC-best 2.9 mark. Junior Tina Roy has been the unexpected distributor this season, ranking 11th in the conference with 3.1 assists per game and a 2.4 assist-to-turnover ratio that has her second in the SEC and among the nation’s top 30. Last season’s assist leader, junior Tiffany Mitchell rounds out the trio with a 3.1 average that is 14th in the SEC.