By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
COLUMBIA, S.C. – It has been an historic opening 10 games for the No. 21/17 South Carolina women’s basketball team this season, but a statement win on Wednesday night would go a long way towards solidifying the Gamecocks as one of the nation’s top teams.
When South Carolina squares off with No. 1 Stanford on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET at Colonial Life Arena (TV: Fox Sports South), there are numerous milestones on the line for the Gamecocks. A victory for the home team, which would be South Carolina’s first-ever against a No. 1 ranked team, would make the Gamecocks 11-0 for the first time in school history. Additionally, it would give head coach Dawn Staley her 250th career win.
“I think it’s great for our program,” Staley said. “It’s a good measuring stick for where we are. I think we’ve had some pretty good success this year and we want to build on it. To bring the No. 1 team in here – the excitement of it, the challenge of it – to play against what I consider one of the great basketball minds in Tara VanDerveer, this is why you coach and this is why players play. I think it’s going to be a tremendous atmosphere.”
In eight previous tries, South Carolina has never beaten the nation’s No. 1 team, but there’s plenty of reason why the Gamecocks have a good chance of that on Wednesday night. South Carolina ranks second in the nation in rebounding margin with a +16.4 advantage, while also checking in at second nationally in scoring defense at 45.0 points allowed per game. The Gamecocks have held eight of their 10 opponents to 50 points or fewer this year.
The South Carolina offense has been keyed by a balanced approach that features three players averaging 11.0 points per game or better – Aleighsa Welch (11.9 ppg), Tiffany Mitchell (11.2 ppg) and Ashley Bruner (11.0 ppg). Welch, a sophomore forward, leads the SEC this season with five double-doubles.
The Gamecocks are one of two undefeated teams (Georgia, 11-0) in the SEC.
“We’re excited about the opportunity just to play the No. 1 team in the country on our home court,” Staley said. “I’m excited for our players and I’m excited as a coach, because you don’t get this opportunity very often.”
It could be a night for the record books.