Who: No. 25 South Carolina (7-4) vs. Furman (7-5)
When: 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 30
Where: Colonial Life Arena
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Radio: 107.5 FM in Columbia
Series history: South Carolina has a 12-1 edge in the all-time series with Furman. The Paladins’ only win came in 1995 in Greenville, and the Gamecocks have won every game since by 20 or more points.
Last meeting: USC and Furman last met in 2012 at Colonial Life Arena, with Dawn Staley’s side winning 69-35, the second game in a row in the series where Furman scored fewer than 40 points.
Foul-fest in the making: Furman is one of the nation’s best teams at getting to the free throw line — the Paladins rank fourth in the NCAA in free throw attempts this year and get nearly a quarter of their offense from the charity stripe. Opponents are averaging more than 20 fouls per game against them, with the 29th-highest foul rate in the country, per Her Hoop Stats.
The Gamecocks, meanwhile, lost their main foul magnet in A’ja Wilson but are still quite adept at drawing contact, especially when guards drive the line. USC ranks 23rd nationally in free throw attempts with 254, and its opponents also have a top-35 foul rate. Through 11 games, opposing teams are averaging 21 whistles per contest.
What happens when the 3s aren’t there: Dawn Staley has said when her team is hitting its 3-pointers, it can compete with any team in the country. The issue has been the nights when the Gamecocks simply can’t get it going from deep — and there have been several.
Staley wants her guards to dribble drive the basket when this happens and score from the inside out. The Gamecocks’ 65-55 win over Dayton showcased that, as Carolina was 3-for-12 from 3 but still ground out a hard-fought win.
But if opponents see the Gamecocks abandoning the 3, spacing could become an issue as defenses sag off the perimeter and stuff the paint. Committing to long-range shots can frustrate fans when the attempts aren’t falling, but finding the right balance between looks is still an area under construction for Staley and her squad.
End of nonconference slate (sorta): UConn looms in February and there’s still the possibility of a game with Duke after the SEC tournament in March, but Sunday’s game still stands as the end of the traditional nonconference slate for South Carolina and the final tuneup before SEC play begins. While it seems unlikely that the Paladins will present much trouble to the Gamecocks, it will be interesting to see how easily, if at all, USC is able to control the game before it travels to play Texas A&M and one of the most dynamic players in the country, Chennedy Carter.
At the very least, this could be the last time fans get to see much of the team’s deeper rotation players, such as freshman forward Elysa Wesolek, sophomore forward LaDazhia Williams and perhaps freshman forward Victaria Saxton, play meaningful minutes.
South Carolina projected starting lineup: Junior guard Tyasha Harris, redshirt junior guard Te’a Cooper, freshman guard Destanni Henderson, redshirt senior forward Alexis Jennings, junior forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan
Furman projected starting lineup: Junior guard Le’Jzae Davidson, redshirt junior guard Taylor Petty, redshirt freshman guard Milica Manojlovic, sophomore guard Tyah Hunter, senior forward Kaitlyn Duncan
South Carolina key stats: The Gamecocks continue to have one of the nation’s highest scoring offenses, putting up 78.4 points per game to rank in the top 40 in the NCAA. ... According to Her Hoop Stats, South Carolina is averaging just over 72 possessions per game, its fastest rate under Dawn Staley. ... In the Staley era, South Carolina has never had two players shoot better than 80 percent from the free throw line. Four Gamecocks are currently above that mark, led by junior Tyasha Harris at 85.7 percent.
Furman key stats: Le’Jzae Davidson ranks fourth in the country in 3-pointers attempted, with 113 shots from long range already this year — roughly half as many as South Carolina has taken as a team. ... The Paladins are averaging 65.7 points per game while allowing 67.6. Their -1.9 scoring margin ranks 218th nationally. ... Furman leads the Southern Conference in field goal percentage with a 42.1 percent mark, but ranks third-to-last in the league in 3-point percentage, at 28.9 percent.