WBB Preview: Carolina Heads to Baton Rouge

The South Carolina women's basketball team heads to Baton Rouge to take on the LSU Tigers Thursday night. With just two games remaining in the season, the Gamecocks are trying to make one final push for a potential first-round bye in next week's SEC Tournament and a berth in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

Date: Thursday, February 24, 2011
Time: 7 p.m. (CT)
Location: Baton Rouge, La.
Arena: Pete Maravich Assembly Center (13,472)
Radio: WISW 1320 AM (Brad Muller)
LSU Series: LSU leads 20-4; In Baton Rouge: LSU leads 10-1; In Columbia: LSU leads 10-2; At Neutral Site: SC leads 1-0

The South Carolina women's basketball team will hit the road for the final time in the 2010-11 regular season on Thursday when they travel to Baton Rouge to take on the LSU Tigers. Carolina (16-11, 8-6 SEC) defeated LSU (17-11, 7-7 SEC) a month and a half ago, 63-61, in Columbia.

LSU came out of the gates hot in the first match-up, building a 23-7 lead just over eight minutes into the game. From there, Carolina turned up the heat defensively, forcing 16 LSU turnovers, to chip away at the lead. Carolina would eventually build an eight point lead midway through the second half, but the Tigers came back and the teams went back and forth the remainder of the game. A pair of La'Kiesha Sutton free throws with just over a minute left tied the game at 61-61. After the two teams traded misses, LSU's Katherine Graham had the ball stolen away by Ashley Bruner. Bruner threw it ahead to Ieasia Walker, who was fouled driving for a lay-up with two seconds left. Bruner connected with both and a half-court shot from Courtney Jones came up short as the Gamecocks avoided losing their first two conference games.

LSU has been a model of inconsistency all season. The Tigers beat then-#8 UCLA on the road, played then-#5 Tennessee to within eight points and then-#7 Ohio State within four, but have losses to Tulane at home, two losses to Arkansas, and have lost their last two games. LSU is 10-3 at home with losses to Tulane, Tennessee, and Arkansas. With a match-up at #4 Tennessee set for Sunday, Thursday's game is a must-win for LSU on Senior Night. The Tigers will say good-bye to three seniors - LaTear Eason, Katherine Graham, and Jasmine Nelson. A loss would drop LSU to below .500 in league play and likely end up at 7-9 and needing to win the SEC Tournament to get a shot at an NCAA bid.

Carolina, on the other hand, finds itself in a little better position after playing well in February. You always hear how important the last 10 games are for a team when it comes to earning an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament. In Carolina's last 10, they hold a 7-3 record with wins over Georgia and Kentucky - whom are both ranked. Two of the three losses were to Tennessee. The Gamecocks are getting hot at the right time, but they can't stop now.

With LSU and a home game with Vanderbilt left on the schedule the Gamecocks are trying to set themselves up for a run in the SEC Tournament and earn coach Dawn Staley's first NCAA Tournament berth at Carolina. Regardless of what anyone else does, should Carolina win both games they would - at worst - tie Vanderbilt for fourth in the conference. The Gamecocks would have the tie-breaker over the Commodores and be the fourth seed in the conference, earning a first-round bye. Should Carolina finish fifth, they would meet the #12 seed in the first round and then play the #4 seed in the second round.

Right now, South Carolina controls its own destiny. Continue playing well and they will have no worries come Selection Monday. Have a letdown and they will find themselves needing a good bit of help to get an at-large berth.

SEC Standings

Tennessee - 14-0
Georgia - 10-4
Kentucky - 9-5
Vanderbilt - 9-5
South Carolina - 8-6
LSU - 7-7
Auburn - 7-7
Arkansas - 6-8
Florida - 5-9
Alabama - 4-10
Mississippi - 3-11
Mississippi State - 2-12

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