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January 30, 2014

WBB Hoops preview: Ole Miss

The No. 7 Gamecocks (18-2, 6-1 SEC) return home for the first time in 10 days as they play host to Ole Miss (10-11, 1-6) tonight.

Time: 7 p.m.
Site: Colonial Life Arena
TV: None. Live video at GamecocksOnline.com

What to watch for:
South Carolina is coming off one of its biggest wins of the season. On the road against Vanderbilt in a nationally televised game, guard Tiffany Mitchell scored four points in 18 seconds to break a tie, and the Gamecocks held on to win over the then-No, 16 Commodores. South Carolina did not play particularly well in that game, struggling with foul trouble and turnovers, but still found a way to win. The victory was a confidence builder for a team that was not lacking for confidence to begin with.

Now the Gamecocks return home to face a lightly regarded Ole Miss squad. The Rebels are in last place in the SEC, and their only conference win was a two point overtime victory over Mississippi State, a team with only one more conference win than Ole Miss. However, the Rebels have played better of late. They followed the win over Mississippi State with a close loss to 14th-ranked LSU in their last game, losing by ten at home.

South Carolina should beat Ole Miss, but there is letdown potential in this game. The Gamecocks have had a habit of starting games slowly this season, and no doubt head coach Dawn Staley would like to see her team jump on top early and take care of business.

Notes:
The Gamecocks will be looking to tie the series record with Ole Miss. The Rebels lead the all-time series between the two schools 17-16. However, the Gamecocks have won the last four meetings and seven of nine. The Rebels have not taken a series win since the 2010 SEC Tournament.

The Ole Miss game marks the beginning of a stretch in which South Carolina should be able to polish their NCAA Tournament resume. Three of the next four games are at home, and all are against teams at the bottom of the SEC standings. The Gamecocks will be expected to win all four, which would push them past the 20-win mark for the third straight season. The schedule gets tougher at the end of the season, so the Gamecocks need to take advantage of this stretch.

The Gamecocks' 6-1 conference record is tied for best in the SEC. Texas A&M is also 6-1, and the Aggies hold the tiebreaker thanks to their head-to-head win. The tiebreaker is only used to seed the SEC Tournament, not determine conference champions.

Quick hits:
South Carolina is 6-1 in the SEC for the first time in program history. It started 8-0 in the Metro Conference during the 1987-88 season... The Gamecocks are seeking their twelfth home victory of the season tonight, matching the season total for home wins from each of the past two seasons... South Carolina's Drive for 5 campaign is in good shape. The Gamecocks are currently averaging 5,292 fans per home game, third in the SEC and 14th in the nation... The Gamecocks number seven ranking in the AP poll is the highest since they were ranked seventh in 2002... South Carolina and Connecticut are the only teams in the country ranked in the top five in offensive field goal percentage and defensive field goal percentage... Alaina Coates' 42 blocked shots tie the USC freshman record, set by Lakesha Tolliver in 2004-05. Coates is one block away from entering the single-season top ten... Meanwhile, Elem Ibiam is already in the top ten, with 48 blocks.


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