WBB Preview: Tourney Time For Gamecocks

South Carolina opens up the 2011 SEC Tournament against Ole Miss Thursday evening in Nashville. Carolina is just 3-19 all time - 1-4 against Ole Miss - in the SEC Tournament and has never advanced past the second round. It would take at least that to get the Gamecocks back into consideration for an NCAA Tournament berth. The last Tournament win was a 65-63 victory over Auburn in 2007.

Date: Thursday, March 3, 2011
Time: 7:30 p.m. (ET)
Location: Nashville, Tenn.
Arena: Bridgestone Arena (17,576)
Ole Miss Series: OM leads 17-13; At Neutral Site: OM leads 4-1; In Columbia: SC leads 8-5; In Oxford: OM leads 8-4
TV: FSN (Dave Baker and LaChina Robinson)
Radio: WISW 1320 AM (Brad Muller and Marcy Girton)



"March Madness" is officially upon us.

The South Carolina women's basketball team will kick off their 2011 SEC Tournament appearance against a familiar foe Thursday night at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. Carolina will meet Ole Miss - the team that defeated the Gamecocks in the first round of last year's tournament - in game 3 of the SEC Tournament at 7:30. Arkansas and Florida will kick it off at 1:00, followed by LSU and Alabama at 2:30. The winner of tomorrow night's game will face Georgia Friday.

A struggling South Carolina team traveled to Oxford on January 16 searching for its first road win of the season. A La'Keisha Sutton free throw with just over a minute to play tied the game at 52-52 and sent the game into overtime. Valerie Nainima drained a three to open up overtime and the Gamecocks would not let up. Nainima scored seven of the 11 overtime points for Carolina in a 63-58 victory. Ieasia Walker scored 20 points and Nainima scored 9 to pace Carolina. Kayla Melson led all scorers with 21 points and Valencia McFarland scored 15 for the Rebels.

South Carolina enters the SEC Tournament on a sour note. After jumping out to a 22-5 lead and leading nearly the entire game against LSU last Thursday, the Gamecocks allowed the Tigers to send the game to overtime and a Markeshia Grant three-pointer as time expired was off and LSU walked away with a 54-51 overtime victory. Carolina followed that up by blowing a late 10-point lead Sunday against Vanderbilt and allowed the Commodores to outscore them 18-4 in overtime in a 74-60 loss.

"I think we are just feeling a little residual effect from losing our last two regular-season games in overtime, games in which we had a lead," head coach Dawn Staley said. "We've got to rally the troops and find a way to muster up some confidence to get the first win on Thursday."

Those two losses left the Gamecocks at 16-13 overall and 8-8 in the conference and put a damper on NCAA Tournament hopes. Due to Kentucky being the #2 seed in the SEC Tournament, the Gamecocks won the tiebreaker over LSU and Auburn for the #5 seed. A win over Ole Miss and Georgia would put Carolina back into the conversation for an at-large bid, but it would probably take a Saturday win over Tennessee to get them in for sure.

"It's March - everybody should be thinking about the tournament. I am," Staley said "I'm not going to put that pressure on our team. But certainly, we still have life."

Despite the results of the last two games and an average record, Carolina remains in the mix as far as RPI goes. Due in large part to a schedule that ranked twentieth in the country, the Gamecocks have an RPI that ranks them at 55.

"Our body of work speaks for itself," Staley said. "I think we have to continue to win basketball games. This may not be a bad thing, to play on the first night, because we get an opportunity to sweeten our resume."



2011 SEC Tournament

Thursday

Game 1 - #9 Arkansas vs #8 Florida 1:00 P.M. FSN
Game 2 - #10 Alabama vs #7 LSU 3:30 P.M. FSN
Game 3 - #12 Mississippi vs #5 South Carolina 7:30 P.M. FSN
Game 4 - #11 Mississippi State vs #6 Auburn 10:00 P.M. FSN


Friday

Game 5 - Game 1 winner vs #1 Tennessee 1:00 P.M. FSN
Game 6 - Game 2 winner vs #2 Kentucky 3:30 P.M. FSN
Game 7 - Game 3 winner vs #4 Georgia 7:30 P.M. FSN
Game 8 - Game 4 winner vs #3 Vanderbilt 10:00 P.M. FSN

Saturday

Game 9 - Game 5 winner vs Game 7 winner 4:00 P.M. ESPNU
Game 10 - Game 6 winner vs Game 8 winner 6:30 P.M. ESPNU

Sunday
SEC Championship


Game 11 - Game 9 winner vs Game 10 winner 5:30 P.M. ESPN2




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