WBB: Carolina Faces Arkansas on ESPNU

After having a week off, the South Carolina women's basketball team hits the road on Super Bowl Sunday to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in a game televised by ESPNU at 4:00 EST. The Gamecocks are looking to knock off a potential NCAA Tournament team while looking for only their second win in Fayetteville in 11 tries and getting back to .500 in conference play.

South Carolina at Arkansas

Date: Sunday, February 6, 2011

Time: 4 p.m. (ET)

Location: Fayetteville, Ark.

Arena: Bud Walton Arena (19,200)

Arkansas Series: ARK leads 16-7; In Fayetteville: ARK leads 9-1; In Columbia: SC leads 6-5; At Neutral Site: ARK leads 2-0

TV: ESPNU (Sam Gore and LaChina Robinson)

Radio: WISW 1320 AM (Brad Muller and Marcy Girton); GamecocksOnline.com



Valentine's Day 2010 was not kind to the South Carolina women's basketball team. With hopes of an NCAA Tournament bid still on the line, the Gamecocks hosted 9-14 Arkansas at the Colonial Life Arena. Carolina looked to be cruising to an easy victory, leading by 18 with 8:28 left in the game. From there, the Razorbacks went on an unthinkable 29-7 run to turn that 18-point deficit into a 72-68 win. That game was a microcosm that was the final month of the season where Carolina went from being an NCAA bubble team to not even qualifying for the WNIT following a first round loss to Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament.

This season both teams have something to play for. The Razorbacks enter the game with a 16-6 record, but only two quality wins against #12 Oklahoma and #10 Kentucky - both of which were played in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks are only 4-6 in the SEC after losing four out of their last five conference games, including losing their last three home games after winning their first 10 games at Bud Walton Arena. Playing a weak schedule has bolstered the Razorbacks into NCAA Tournament talk despite their 4-6 conference record.

The Razorbacks are led offensively by a trio that average over 13 points per game. Guard C'eira Ricketts (13.6), center Sarah Watkins (13.3), and guard Lyndsay Harris (13.2) lead the way with forwards Keira Peak and Ashley Daniels average 7.9 and 7.5, respectively. No one else averages more than 2.7 per game.

Daniels leads the team with nearly seven rebounds per game, while Peak and Watkins are each just below six per game.

Carolina enters the game with a 12-10 record, 4-5 in the SEC after giving up a late lead in a 54-47 loss to Auburn last Sunday. The Gamecocks are only 1-6 on the road this season and 1-9 all time in Fayetteville. The lone win at Arkansas was a 74-69 victory on February 8, 2007. The Razorbacks took the last meeting in Fayetteville, 58-54 in 2009. The Gamecocks enter the game with the 20th toughest schedule in the nation, which could play a role if they're able to enter bubble consideration.

The Gamecocks do not have the three-headed monster that Arkansas has in scoring, but relies on a more balanced attack than the Razorbacks. Ieasia Walker has emerged to become a primary scorer, averaging 12.5 per game. While she is the only Gamecock averaging double-figures offensively, they have five more averaging at least five per game. La'Keisha Sutton and Ashley Bruner each average nine per game, Marah Strickland averages eight, and Valerie Nainima and Markeshia Grant each average five.

Despite it's severe size disadvantage in practically every conference game, Carolina is tied with Tennessee for first in defensive rebounds with 34.2 per game. Bruner averages six per game, Jewel May is just under five, and Charenee Stephens and Walker average just over four.

Entering this week, ESPN's Charlie Creme is predicting the SEC having six teams making the NCAA Tournament - Tennessee (9-0), Kentucky (7-2), Georgia (7-2), Vanderbilt (6-3), LSU (5-5), and Arkansas (4-6). The Gamecocks will play five of the six over the remaining seven games, having only finished the season series with Georgia. Auburn, who is fifth in the conference with a 6-3 record, is on the outside looking in right now based on their out of conference play.

A win - coupled with an LSU loss to Ole Miss - will allow the Gamecocks to move up to sixth in the conference and possibly start whispers of a potential NCAA bubble bid. A loss with a Florida victory over Vanderbilt would drop Carolina to ninth and put the Gamecocks in a huge hole. To say this is an important game for the Gamecocks is a vast understatement.


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