Who: No. 7 South Carolina (19-5, 8-3 SEC) vs. Florida (10-14, 2-9 SEC)
When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia, South Carolina
Watch: SEC Network
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Series History: Florida owns the all-time edge, 20-16, but the Gators have not beaten the Gamecocks since 2011, encompassing an eight-game losing streak.
Last Time Out: South Carolina overcame a sluggish start and lackluster effort on the offensive glass to rally past Alabama this past Thursday for a 79-66 win. Florida gave No. 2 Mississippi State some trouble early but faded badly down the stretch, losing 98-50 in its fourth consecutive game against a ranked opponent.
South Carolina Starters: F A’ja Wilson, F Alexis Jennings, G Doniyah Cliney, G Bianca Jackson, G Tyasha Harris
Florida Starters: F Haley Lorenzen, F Paulina Hersler, G Delicia Washington, G Dyandria Anderson, G Funda Nakkasoglu
Key Storyline: After losing twice in a row for the first time in five years, South Carolina came out looking mentally drained against Alabama this past Thursday, allowing the Crimson Tide to race to a seven-point lead in the first quarter.
Afterward, Dawn Staley ripped her team’s effort as “lackluster,” in particular pointing to 19-8 offensive rebounding difference in favor of Alabama as evidence that the energy simply wasn’t there for the Gamecocks.
This Sunday, USC will face an even easier test that Alabama on the road — Florida, third to last in the SEC and losers of four straight, at home. In other words, this is a game South Carolina should win, and win with authority.
Granted, any win at all, no matter how it comes, is valuable at this time of the season, as teams jockey for seeding in the SEC tournament. But if the Gamecocks continue to struggle against lower-level competition, it doesn’t bode well for their chances of advancing deep into March, when they will have to be at their sharpest every game.
Other Notes: South Carolina’s post players will get a workout against Florida’s frontcourt combo of Haley Lorenzen and Paulina Hersler, both of whom stand 6-foot-3 and average more than 12 points per game. Lorenzen is also fourth in the SEC in rebounds per game, with 9.3.
Florida is one of the nation’s best teams at not fouling, averaging the fourth fewest in the NCAA. The Gators also rank near the top of college basketball in 3-pointers attempted and made per game, though their percentage ranks 190th nationally.
Conversely, Florida is one of the worst teams in the country at forcing turnovers, ranking outside the NCAA’s top 300 in steals, blocks and turnovers forced per game.
South Carolina’s -11 offensive rebounding margin against Alabama was its worst mark of the season. During that game, however, A’ja Wilson passed Staley’s career scoring mark of 2,135 points back from her historic run at Virginia.
Freshman Bianca Jackson is averaging more minutes per game (28.3) than established teammates like Tyasha Harris and A’ja Wilson did in their rookie campaigns.
Harris continues to lead the SEC in assists per game, with 6.2. She is also third in the conference in steals per game. Teammate Alexis Jennings ranks third in the league in field goal percentage.
A’ja Record Watch: 125 points from becoming South Carolina’s career scoring leader
175 rebounds from passing Alaina Coates for second place in South Carolina’s career rebounding leaderboard
12 double doubles from passing Alaina Coates for second place in program history
4 more 20-point games from having the second most such efforts in South Carolina history
On pace to average sixth most points per game in a season in USC history
On pace to average fifth most rebounds per game in a season in USC history
On pace to break her own record for most blocks per game in a season in South Carolina history
Currently holds USC records in career blocks, career SEC points, career free throws, career free throw attempts