Gamecock women’s basketball opens season against Alabama State

BY: TYRIA GOINES

COLUMBIA, S.C. — No. 4/2 South Carolina women’s basketball officially opens its 2017-18 regular season at Colonial Life Arena on Fri., Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. against Alabama State. The Gamecocks will receive their SEC Championship rings and will unveil their National Championship banner in a ceremony that will begin at 6:30 p.m. and air live on SEC Network.

South Carolina begins its 44th season of women’s basketball tonight and its 10th under the tutelage of head coach Dawn Staley. The match marks the fifth time in the Staley era that South Carolina has opened the season at home. The Gamecocks are 3-1 in the previous four such games. Overall, South Carolina is 6-2 in season openers under Staley.

The 2017-18 Gamecocks seem to be difficult for college basketball experts to predict as South Carolina enters the season ranked anywhere from No. 2 to No. 10 in the nation.

The Friday game marks the final season opener for four-year seniors Bianca Cuevas-Moore and A’ja Wilson. The pair has won every SEC regular-season and SEC Tournament it has contested, going on to appear in two NCAA Final Fours in their first three seasons.

Three Gamecock freshmen will have a chance to make their college debut tonight, but only one will have a chance to do it playing against her mother’s team. Alabama State’s 20-year head coach Freda Freeman-Jackson is the mother of Gamecock freshman guard Bianca Jackson, who grew up around and practiced against the Lady Hornets.

South Carolina senior Bianca Ceuvas-Moore will sit out Friday’s game with a knee sprain, according to head coach Dawn Staley. She will be reevaluated over the weekend, and her return is listed as day-to-day.

Alabama State enters the 2017-18 season after posting a 14-16 record last season, although 12 of those 14 victories came in SWAC play, propelling the Lady Hornets into third place in the league. Alabama State advanced to the semifinals of the SWAC Tournament last season as well.

The Lady Hornets have to replace two starters and four letterwinners from that season, though, including their top two scorers and rebounders, who accounted for 45.5 percent of that team’s points and 29.3 percent of its rebounds.

Top returning scorer Tatyana Calhoun picked up preseason First-Team All-SWAC honors after posting 4.9 points and 4.0 rebounds per game while averaging just 15.1 minutes on the court. Head coach Freda Freeman-Jackson has added three Division I transfers to bolster this season’s roster.

The Gamecocks are 422-155 all-time on their home court, including a 180-60 mark in Colonial Life Arena. South Carolina is 115-27 at home during the Dawn Staley era and has lost just twice in its last 67 home games, including undefeated home seasons in 2013-14 and 2014-15. The Gamecocks have won 33 of their last 34 SEC regular-season home games dating back to the 2012-13 season.

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