Who: No. 9 South Carolina (17-3, 6-2 SEC) vs. No. 11 Missouri (17-3, 5-2 SEC)
When: Sunday, 6 p.m.
Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia, South Carolina
Listen: 107.5 The Game
Series History: After Missouri defeated the Gamecocks earlier this year, the series tightened between the two programs to 4-3 all-time in favor of USC. The Gamecocks have lost two in a row to Mizzou.
South Carolina Starters: F A’ja Wilson, F Alexis Jennings, G Doniyah Cliney, G Bianca Jackson, G Tyasha Harris
Missouri Starters: F Jordan Frericks, F Cierra Porter, G Lauren Aldridge, G Amber Smith, G Sophie Cunningham
Key Storyline: While the obvious story at the heart of this matchup is revenge for South Carolina after a controversial loss a few weeks ago, USC coach Dawn Staley and her players have tried to downplay that aspect, insisting that while the fans are free to bring as much extra intensity and hype toward Missouri as they want, they’re trying to approach Sunday as they would any other game.
But regardless of whether you think Mizzou’s play was unnecessarily rough in the first game, it’s undeniable that the Gamecocks cannot allow A’ja Wilson or Alexis Jennings to get into foul trouble, just as they cannot let Missouri star guard Sophie Cunningham torch them for 27 points again. Without its star forwards, South Carolina was outscored in the paint by a scrappy, angry Missouri team.
Staley admitted that Missouri’s up-tempo, aggressive style took her team by surprise on Jan. 8. Now that they know what’s coming, how will they handle it, and how will the Tigers adjust in response? Perhaps the biggest area of concern for USC is its 3-point defense, an area Staley has mentioned in the past and where the Gamecocks rank 304th in the country.
Other Notes: Missouri is the only team in the SEC against whom the Gamecocks have an active losing streak of more than one game. ... The Tigers rank first in the SEC in rebounding margin and second in field goal percentage defense. ... Led by star Sophie Cunningham, Mizzou shoots 38 percent on 3-pointers, good for 17th in the country. ... Cunningham ranks fifth in the conference in points per game, second in 3-point percentage and sixth in field goal percentage.
South Carolina sophomore forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan has missed three games with a bone bruise, but she is targeting a return against Mizzou, and Staley sounds optimistic about her chances to play, saying “when players set a target date to come back when they’re injured, they seem to get a lot healthier quicker.” ... South Carolina ranks third in the country in field goal percentage but just 101st in 3-point percentage. ... A’ja Wilson is tied for fifth in the country with 13 double-doubles, and is now 201 points away from becoming USC’s all-time scoring leader.