Gamecocks Host Arizona State Sunday in NCAA Tournament

COLUMBIA, S.C. (USC SID) — No. 3/4 South Carolina plays its final home game of the 2016-17 season Sunday, hosting Arizona State in NCAA Tournament second-round action at 7 p.m. The Gamecocks (28-4) and Sun Devils (20-12) are two of the nation’s stingiest defenses this season with neither allowing more than 58 points per game.

SOUTH CAROLINA NOTABLES

  • •  The Gamecocks are playing tonight to earn a spot in the NCAA Sweet 16 for the fourth-straight season and fifth time in the Dawn Staley era.
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  • •  Tonight’s game features two of the country’s top-35 scoring defenses as the Gamecocks’ 56.4 points per game allowed are 27th in the nation, while Arizona State’s 57.4 points per game are 32nd.
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  • •  Two of the nation’s most sure-handed freshman point guards match up tonight with Arizona State’s Reili Richardson ranking 55th in the nation — sixth among freshmen — in assist-to-turnover ratio and South Carolina’s Tyasha Harris coming in 68th in the nation — eighth among freshmen — in the category. Harris has recorded 11 games of five or more assists, including four of the last five outings, and has committed more than two turnovers in an outing just six times in 32 games.
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  • •  South Carolina continued its hot shooting in the postseason, netting 56.9 percent of its shots in the opening round of NCAA Tournament action. Six Gamecocks have shot over 50.0 percent during the stretch, including freshman Mikiah Herbert Harrigan at 61.5 percent.
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  • •  Naismith Trophy finalist A’ja Wilson continues to elevate her game when the stakes are highest. Over the last five games, which include the regular-season finale to clinch the Gamecocks’ fourth-straight SEC championship and the SEC Tournament title game against #6/7 Mississippi State, the junior forward is shooting 60.7 percent to average 20.4 points per game to go along with her 4.75 blocked shots per game. Averaging 31.0 minutes, she scored a point every 0.66 minute on the court and score 1.67 points per shot attempt.
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  • •  South Carolina has played five games without senior center Alaina Coates, during which five Gamecocks average double-figure points. The Gamecocks have won those games by an average of 22.4 points with two of those wins coming over nationally ranked opponents, which they defeated by 11.0 points per game.
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  • •  The 8,215 fans at Friday night’s NCAA Tournament opener at Colonial Life Arena were the most of any host site on the first day of the event.
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BY THE NUMBERS

2 Single-digit scoring games by A’ja Wilson this season, both of which she played fewer than 16 minutes
3 Games in which Allisha Gray has led or tied for the team lead in rebounding — the third-most on the team
4 Gamecocks who have posted at least one double-double this season, including guards Kaela Davis (Ohio State) and Allisha Gray (UNC Asheville)
4.25 Blocks per postseason game by A’ja Wilson
4.75 Assists per postseason game for freshman Tyasha Harris
6 Of her seven offensive rebounds that Allisha Gray scored off against UNC Asheville
7 Wins by the Gamecocks when they score 90-99 points, 80-89 points, 70-79 points or under 70 points
14 Of the last 20 quarters in which the Gamecocks shot at least 50.0 percent from the field
20.8 Average scoring margin for South Carolina over the last five games
60 Points in the paint vs. UNC Asheville, a season high for the Gamecocks

ARIZONA STATE SERIES NOTES

The Gamecocks are 2-1 all-time against Arizona State with the most recent meeting coming in Hawaii on Nov. 27, 2015. While that game — a 60-58 South Carolina victory — was just 16 months ago, just two Gamecocks who played in that contest will take the court tonight. Conversely, six of the 11 Sun Devils who saw action are on this season’s roster. For then-No. 2 South Carolina, those two returning players were the two high scorers in last season’s game as A’ja Wilson and Bianca Cuevas-Moore each posted 18 points in the victory over then-No. 16 Arizona State. Wilson posted a double-double with her last rebound and final two points sealing the game after she hit a pair of free throws after being fouled rebounding her own miss in the final second of the game.

BY COMMITTEE

South Carolina has overcome the absence of Alaina Coates the way every coach describes replacing an All-American — by committee. The Gamecocks are 5-0 since Coates was injured with a pair of wins over ranked opponents, including top-10 Mississippi State for the SEC Tournament title.

A few key stat differences in the five games are:
(Without Coates/With Coates)
Team Scoring Average 78.0/76.4
Team FG Percentage .516/.466
Herbert Harrigan Scoring Average 11.0/4.1
Cuevas-Moore Scoring Average 11.8/8.2
Wilson Scoring Average 19.6/17.2
Kaela Davis Rebounding Average 5.8/3.5
Wilson Rebounding Average 8.8/7.3

GRAY AREA

Due to teammate injuries, junior guard Allisha Gray has started four games this season as essentially the Gamecocks’ starting power forward. Undersized only in height, the six-foot guard’s heart and competitive fire made those outings — at LSU, at Texas A&M, vs. Mississippi State and against UNC Asheville — some of her most productive games of the season. Averaging roughly the same minutes as her season mark (28.0), Gray posted 14.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game while shooting 71.9 percent in those four games. In fact, in the most recent such game, she out-scored AND out-rebounded All-America roommate A’ja Wilson

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