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February 23, 2014

WBB preview: Florida

Fourth-ranked South Carolina (24-2, 12-1 SEC) returns home on Sunday to face Florida (17-9, 7-6) for the first game of a two-game stand to close out the home schedule.

Time: 1 p.m.
Site: Colonial Life Arena
TV: SportSouth

What to watch for:
Sunday is South Carolina's "Think Pink" game. The purpose of the game is to recognize women who have battled or are battling breast cancer. The Gamecocks will wear special pink shooting shirts and accessories in honor of assistant coach Nikki McCray, who announced her diagnosis with breast cancer in January. There will be video messages and halftime activities related to the Think Pink theme.

The Gamecocks have three games left in the regular season. They host Florida today, Georgia on Thursday, and then visit Tennessee next weekend. They have a one game lead over Texas A&M and a two game lead over Tennessee. If they can sweep this week's home stand, they will clinch their first SEC championship regardless of the result at Tennessee. Florida and Georgia are both good teams, but trying to beat them at home is a much more appealing task than having to grab a win at Knoxville.


South Carolina has already secured a bye into the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. At 7-6, Florida is in a four-way tie for fourth (Georgia is a game behind that quartet). Beyond the SEC Tournament, South Carolina is also playing for NCAA Tournament seeding. Winning out in the regular season could put them in line for a number one seed. Winning the SEC Tournament would make it all be certain, as well as tie the 1979-80 team with 30 wins, most in a season in program history.

But before looking too far ahead, the Gamecocks have to get past the Gators. Florida started the season on a tear, and won its first three conference games before coming back to earth. That backwards slide coincided with the arrest and suspension of forward Christin Mercer, who was the Gators' second-leading scorer and rebounder. Florida has lost three of four, but that one win was over then No. 15 Kentucky. The Gators are an undersized team that relies heavily on its guards, led by senior Jaterra Bonds (15.4 points per game).

Notes:
* South Carolina is offering a variety of promotions Sunday. Anyone with a ticket from Saturday's men's basketball game will be admitted to the women's game for free. In addition to the Think Pink promotion, it is National Girls and Women in Sports Day. A variety of booths will be set up around the concourse with information and giveaways.

* Doors will open at 11:30.

*Last 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.

* Junior forward Aleighsa Welch joined the 1,000 point club against Kentucky. She now has 1,016 points, 27th most in program history (there are 29 1,000 point scorers). She also has 654 rebounds, one of 11 players in the 1,000 point group with over 650 boards.

* Tiffany Mitchell has lived up to her status as one of the nation's top players this season. She is the only player to rank in the top 20 in scoring and rebounding, and top 15 in assists and steals. Mitchell is on the Naismith and Wade award watch lists, as well as the watch list for the Dawn Staley Award, which goes to the nation's best guard.

* The Gamecocks shot 52.6 percent from the floor against Kentucky, the 13th time this season they have shot over 50 percent in a game. In Dawn Staley's first five seasons with the Gamecocks, they shot 50 percent or better a grand total of 12 times.

Quick hits:
USC is looking for its 15th win at Colonial Life Arena. That would tie the 2006-07 team for most in a season… USC has won four straight against Florida, but trails 20-12 in the all-time series… No current Gamecock has ever lost to Florida… South Carolina's 12 conference wins are the most ever in the SEC. The 1989-90 team won 13 Metro Conference games.



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