No. 5 South Carolina will open the SEC Tournament against Georgia in Friday as it looks to defend its regular season championship.
Time: Noon, Friday
Site: The Arena at Gwinnett Center, Duluth, Ga.
What to watch for:
This will be the second game between the two teams in eight days. On Feb. 27, South Carolina defeated Georgia 67-56 to clinch the outright SEC Regular Season Championship. Georgia hung around in that game thanks to offensive rebounding. The Bulldogs had 19 offensive rebounds leading to 11 second chance points. They limited the Gamecocks' possessions and fast break opportunities by keeping the ball on their end of the court.
Georgia used a similar effort to win its opening game of the tournament against Vanderbilt. Georgia grabbed 13 offensive rebounds for 13 second chance points. Georgia beat Vanderbilt despite getting only four points from leading scorer Shacobia Barbee. Barbee and Erika Ford combined for combined for 31 against the Gamecocks.
The Gamecocks are coming off just their second conference loss of the season. Tennessee was able to match South Carolina's strength inside and out-rebound the Gamecocks, only the second SEC opponent to accomplish that feat. Rebounding has typically been one of the Gamecocks' strengths this year, as they rank second in the league in rebounding margin. Keeping the Bulldogs off the offensive glass would be a big boost as the Gamecocks try to reach the SEC semifinals.
* The SEC coaches' awards were announced this week, and South Carolina cleaned up. Dawn Staley was named Coach of the Year by her peers. Tiffany Mitchell was named Player of the Year, the second sophomore to ever do so (Candace Parker, a redshirt sophomore, was the first). Alaina Coates won Freshman of the Year and Co-Sixth Woman of the Year (the first Freshman to win a second award). Mitchell and Aleighsa Welch were named First Team All-SEC (the second time in school history two players were named First Team All-SEC). Mitchell and Elem Ibiam were named First Team All-Defense. Coates was named Second Team All-SEC.
* Preseason, the Gamecocks were picked to finish fifth in the league by coaches and seventh by the media. Neither were correct. After struggling to start conference play, going 0-4 for the first time ever, Georgia is playing much better of late. The Bulldogs have won five of their last eight, but two of the three losses have come against Texas A&M in overtime and South Carolina.
* South Carolina and Georgia have met in the SEC Tournament three times. Georgia took the first two meetings, but South Carolina won the last matchup in 2012. All-time, South Carolina is 2-3 in Duluth. Staley is 4-5 in the SEC Tournament.
* The winner of this game will play the winner of the Florida-Kentucky game on Saturday.