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January 17, 2013

WBB: Coliseum re-opens its doors

VIDEO: Dawn Staley

20130116-DawnStaley-CW from GamecockCentral.com on Vimeo.


When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Carolina Coliseum, Columbia
TV: None
Tickets: Available at the box office
LSU's probable starters: G Adrienne Webb 5-9 Sr. (13.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg); G Danielle Ballard 5-9 Fr. (14.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg); G Bianca Lutley 5-11 Sr. (10.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg); G Jeanne Kenney 5-8 Jr. (5.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg); F Theresa Plaisance 6-5 Jr. (17.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg)
South Carolina's probable starters: G Ieasia Walker 5-8 Sr. (8.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg); G Sancheon White 5-10 Sr. (5.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg); G Tiffany Mitchell 5-7 Fr. (10.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg); F Aleighsa Welch 6-0 So. (12.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg); F Ashley Bruner 6-0 Sr. (8.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg)
Notes: LSU leads the series 22-4 and has won the last two. The Lady Tigers lead 10-2 in games in Columbia. … USC has three players among the SEC's Top 20 in rebounding (Welch, Bruner, Mitchell). … Walker needs 18 points to hit 1,000 for her career. … LSU is fourth in the SEC in field-goal percentage, and averages 5.3 blocked shots per game. … The Lady Tigers, like the Gamecocks, have a thin roster. LSU has 10 players while USC has nine. … USC has held 13 of 17 opponents to less than 50 points. … USC is No. 18 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.
Next game: USC tips off at Florida at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Asia Dozier and Wilka Montout shot free throws just a few feet from where Antonio Grant nailed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat Cincinnati in 1998. Managers worked on rebounding missed jump shots right around the same spot where John Ribock punched Maryland coach Lefty Driesell during a game in 1970.

The current South Carolina Gamecocks were 8-10 years old the last time this building had been preparing for a basketball game, and only a few of them then would have even known that the building, resembling a Chinese temple from the street, actually housed a basketball court. The building has remained intact as the rest of USC's campus has undergone a significant facelift, but occasionally, the whispers of the past are heard.

"Playing here, the mystique of playing here and having our players play here, it's a great thing," coach Dawn Staley said on Wednesday. "I think the community really likes the idea of us playing here and hopefully we can get a lot of people in the stands, and bring back the glory days."

Carolina Coliseum will once again host a basketball game tonight, nearly 11 full years after its last. The venerable old palace, opened in 1969 as the Gamecocks' men's basketball team was a juggernaut under coach Frank McGuire, is the site of tonight's game between LSU and Staley's No. 19 Gamecocks (14-3, 2-2 SEC).

The switch in arenas was due to necessity. Colonial Life Arena is hosting a concert by Miranda Lambert tonight, and the women's team didn't want to give up a home game. They decided to play at the Coliseum, where they have sometimes worked out.

"We've practiced here during the summertime, playing pickup, so we're kind of used to it," point guard Ieasia Walker said. "But it's going to be interesting playing here for the first time. I've heard a few stories."

The men's team had a tentative plan to play a "throwback" game at the Coliseum this year, but the plan was put into motion by former coach Darrin Horn and the new regime couldn't make it happen. Plus, with almost every men's game being on TV, the necessity to fix up the Coliseum to play a game there would have been a lot of time and trouble.

The building closed in 2002 as the CLA opened. The CLA featured everything the Coliseum was deficient in - better lighting, more seats, more seats that were easier to get to. But the CLA was also designed to be a multi-purpose building; it's why the massive structure has only had a handful of sellouts for basketball.

The Coliseum, despite its faults, was one of the most intimidating atmospheres in the game when full. The steep seats made noise elimination a top priority for opposing teams; the cheers and jeers descended onto the court and stayed there.

McGuire's teams routinely packed the Coliseum and won a lot of games. The arena had a few bright seasons under Bill Foster and George Felton before plummeting under Steve Newton; Eddie Fogler eventually built another strong program that won the school's first SEC title in any sport when his 1996-97 team stormed through a 15-1 league campaign.

But the building only got older, and the teams began to sag. Dave Odom won the final game in the Coliseum when his Gamecocks beat Ball State on March 21, 2002, to advance to the NIT Final Four. Since then, the Coliseum has mostly been a rental place for musicians to practice before they go on tour; John Mayer did it in 2010 and opened the doors to 150 fans for a free concert.

Tonight, though, it re-opens for basketball. The scoreboards in the end zones don't work; there was noticeable rust on some of the seats; the SEC logos in the lanes were the out-dated "block" designs. But the baskets still measured 10 feet from the floor, and the Gamecocks were working on filling them.

"I think it's a great change of pace," Staley said. "Hopefully it will be good to our offense."

That's been the problem in USC's three losses, including the last, a 42-40 setback at Georgia. The Gamecocks are trying to right the ship and get ahead of an opponent, so they can let their defense do the work. LSU, full of quick guards like the Gamecocks, is a solid shooting team, helped by the presence of 6-foot-5 forward Theresa Plaisance.

The Gamecocks are hoping to correct their scoring problems, and perhaps if they can and get a win, they'll want to play again at Carolina Coliseum. To have the old barn jumping again tonight will be special in any case.

"I got a chance to coach here when I was at Temple, I don't know, 13 years ago?," Staley asked (her second Temple team lost to USC 68-65 in 2001). "I didn't really know the history of it when I got down here. We're drumming up some publicity from playing here. It's a good opportunity for us to bring back some memorable moments."

Or make some new ones.



Season tickets will be honored at the Coliseum, and sections L, M, N and P will be reserved exclusively for those fans. Fans can purchase single-game tickets at the Koger Center box office until 5 p.m. today.

Fans can also purchase tickets the Coliseum box office, which is located on the Greene Street side and is still accessible via sidewalk with signs directing pedestrians around the construction in that area, beginning at 4 p.m. University faculty/staff and students can show their CarolinaCard at the turnstiles at any entrance for free admission.

Because of multiple events going on in the area, parking will be $5 for women's basketball fans in Lot C (bordered by Blossom, Park, Lincoln and Devine), which is directly across Park from the Basketball Practice Facility and is accessible via Devine, as well as the university lot marked AD1, which is on Blossom between the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center and Greek Village. Persons with disabilities can be dropped off at the Coliseum via the lot marked N2 at the corner of Assembly and Blossom.

CenterPlate will operate concession stands on the concourse level of the Coliseum, offering hot dogs, nachos, popcorn and drinks.

Other notes
Doors will open for ticket holders at 6 p.m., one hour prior to tipoff. The Trophy Room on the concourse level of the Coliseum will be open to visitors.

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