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February 16, 2014

WBB Hoops preview: LSU

The fifth-ranked Gamecocks (22-2, 10-1 SEC) return to action Sunday for a top 20 matchup against LSU (18-6, 7-4).

Time: 3:30 pm
Location: Maravich Assembly Center, Baton Rouge, LA
TV: ESPN2

What to watch for:
After four games against the bottom of the SEC, South Carolina got an off night on Thursday. Sunday begins the challenging home stretch. This week, South Carolina visits #19 LSU and then on Thursday travels to face #18 Kentucky. South Carolina currently is in first place in the SEC, one game ahead of Texas A&M and Tennessee.

If the Gamecocks are going to maintain their hold on first place, they will have to defy history. They have won in Baton Rouge only once, in 1994, and lost twelve times. The Tigers lead the all-time series with a commanding 22-5, but the Gamecocks have evened things under Dawn Staley. The home team has won the last four games, including a 66-59 win last year at Carolina Coliseum.

LSU also had Thursday off, and the Tigers are tied with Florida for fourth place in the SEC. LSU is led by senior Theresa Plaisance. She averages a team-high 14.5 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game and has excelled in conference play, scoring in double figures 14 straight times. The matchup between the 6-5 forward and South Carolina's post trio of Elem Ibiam, Alaina Coates, and Aleighsa Welch will be one of the keys to the game.

Notes:
-This past week, South Carolina moved in to the top five of the AP poll for the first time since January 10, 1982. In program history, South Carolina has spent 13 weeks in the AP top five. The highest ranking in school history was #2, held for three weeks in December, 1981.
-LSU will wear pink jerseys as part of their Play 4 Kay game in support of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and to raise breast cancer awareness. Yow was the head coach at NC State and battled breast cancer. South Carolina participated in Play 4 Kay last weekend against Arkansas. USC also has a series of events scheduled for February 23 to support assistant coach Nikki McCray, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in November.
-Welch currently ranks 15th in the SEC in scoring (13.7 ppg) and 10th (7.6 rpg) in rebounding. She is 11th in the nation in field goal percentage (.585). Against ranked teams, Welch is averaging a double-double (17.3 ppg and 10.5 rpg).
-Coates needs two more double-doubles this season to tie the USC freshman record of nine, set by Kelsey Bone in 2008-09. Coates leads the Gamecocks with 7.8 rebounds per game. She has already set the program record for blocks by a freshman with 49, the seventh-highest single season total in program history.


Quick hits:
Sophomore guard Tiffany Mitchell is on the Naismith Trophy and Wade Trophy midseason watch lists. Both awards go to the nation's best player... Welch needs 24 points to reach 1,000 for her career. She would be the 29th Gamecock to reach that milestone... Ibiam has blocked 65 shots this season, a school record. She is currently seventh on the career lost.


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