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February 2, 2014

WBB: Missouri preview



The 7th-ranked Gamecocks (19-2, 7-1 SEC) conclude a mini-home stand Sunday when they play host to Missouri (14-7, 3-5).

Time: 3pm
Site: Colonial Life Arena
TV: None. Live video at GamecocksOnline.com

What to watch for:
Sunday's game is the second game of a stretch of games in which South Carolina will be heavily favored. South Carolina easily dispatched last-place Ole Miss on Thursday, winning 99-70. Missouri is also in the bottom half of the SEC standings, but the Tigers should present a tougher challenge.

Missouri comes in fresh off a 59-54 upset win over Vanderbilt that snapped a four game losing streak. Prior to that loss, the Commodores had not lost to an SEC opponent other than the Gamecocks. Now, the Tigers travel to Columbia with confidence, having just beaten a Top 20 team and knowing that a season ago they upset a highly ranked Gamecock squad at home. In that game, the Tigers took advantage of the Gamecocks' shaky offense to run away with the win.

In that game, Missouri out shot South Carolina 54 percent to 33 percent from the floor and had a 34-14 edge in points in the paint. It is hard to imagine those numbers happening again. This year, South Carolina shoots 49 percent from the floor and holds opponents to 34 percent, both best in the SEC. Furthermore, on offense and defense the Gamecocks are dominant in the paint behind the trio of Aleighsa Welch, Eem Ibiam, and Alaina Coates. Missouri is also more perimeter-oriented this season. The Tigers make just under ten three-point shots per game, second nationally.

Notes:
- South Carolina will try to win its 20th game of the season today, giving it three consecutive twenty win seasons. The Gamecocks have had 12 twenty win season in program history, and have not had three consecutive twenty win seasons since notching four straight from 1987-1991.
- The Gamecocks made a big push to boost attendance this week, with fan giveaways during the week. At the game, 4,000 neon "There's no place like home" shirts will be given out, and students will receive free food vouchers. The Gamecocks' "Drive for 5," a campaign to average 5,000 fans for every home game, is in good shape. USC currently averages 5,296 fans per game, third best in the SEC.
- Ibiam blocked five shots against Ole Miss to give her 53 on the season, moving her into the top-five in program history. The single season record is easily within reach. Lakesha Tolliver had 60 blocks during the 2006-07 season. Ibiam is also in the top ten for career clocks.
- Coates leads the SEC in rebounding with 9.5 per game. She has seven double-doubles on the year and four in conference play. That ties her for the most SEC regular season double-doubles with Kelsey Bone (2009-10). Coates needs two more double-doubles to tie Bone's freshman total. Coates' 43 blocked shots are already a freshman record.
- The Gamecocks have made at least half their field goal attempts in 12 games this season. In Daw Staley's first five seasons the Gamecocks shot better than 50 percent from the floor a total of 12 times.
- The outcome of the game may not be the most important thing for the Gamecocks this weekend. The nation's top-ranked recruit, Columbia native and Heathwood Hall star A'ja Wilson, is making her official visit to USC this weekend. Wilson also visited Connecticut, North Carolina, and Tennessee, and has made a number of unofficial visits with the Gamecocks. Wilson has indicated she is in no hurry to make her decision. South Carolina's recruiting class is currently ranked fourth in the nation by ESPN HoopGurlz, and would certainly rise if Staley can convince Wilson to stay home.
- Wilson was named a McDonald's All-American earlier this week. Staley has already signed two other All-Americans, Bianca Cuevas and Jatarie White. If Wilson were to sign with the Gamecocks, they would match UCLA as the only programs with three McDonald's All-Americans in this signing class. The Gamecocks currently have one McDonald's All-American, Coates, on the roster.

Quick hits:
The Gamecocks have won 12 games at Colonial Life Arena this season. The single season record for a season is 15, set in 2005-06… The 7-1 conference start is the Gamecocks' best ever start in the SEC. They started 8-0 in the Metro in 1987-88… That team lost its ninth game to Southern Miss, so a win over Missouri would tie that team for the best nine game start… The 1987-88 team went 10-2 in conference play… The series record between the Tigers and Gamecocks is tied at 1-1. This will be Missouri's first trip to Columbia (east)… South Carolina will hit the road after this game, travelling to Mississippi Stat.




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