WBB: Gamecocks take show on the road

Coming off of a big 65-55 win over #24 Vanderbilt, South Carolina will take its show on the road in the first SEC road contest against former Gamecock Jordan Jones and the Florida Gators. The Gamecocks will be looking for their eighth straight win and a 3-0 start in SEC play, hoping to snap a five-game losing streak to the Gators.

Game Information
Sunday, January 8, 2012
Time: 2 p.m.
Location: Gainesville, Fla.
Arena: Stephen C. O'Connell Center (12,000)
TV: None
Radio: WISW 1320 AM (Brad Muller and Marcy Girton); GamecocksOnline.com
Florida Series: UF leads 20-8; In Gainesville: UF leads 8-5; In Columbia: UF leads 10-3; At Neutral Site: UF leads 2-0

The South Carolina women's basketball team has taken care of their home court in their opening two games of SEC play, defeating Alabama and #24 Vanderbilt. Now they must take their show on the road, with the first stop being the O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida to take on the Florida Gators.

The Gamecocks have built a nice resume early on in the season. Not only do they enter the game against the Gators with a 13-2 record and winners of seven straight, but they have also knocked off two of the three ranked opponents they have faced. They suffered a 55-50 loss to then-#11 Penn State for their first loss of the season, but they spanked then-#18 North Carolina in Myrtle Beach with a 79-48 win and followed that with Wednesday's 65-55 win over the Commodores. Following the win over Vandy, the team turned their attention toward Florida.

"Of course we talked about Vandy but we have to bottle it up and take it on the road, especially from a defensive effort," head coach Dawn Staley said. "Florida is much like us; they're very athletic at every position and they like to play high-energy basketball on both sides of the ball. For us the keys are that we have to stop them in transition, and then we have to take care of the boards because they average 20 offensive rebounds a game."

Florida enters the game at 11-4 and 1-1 in the SEC and are very tough to beat on their home court. The Gators are 7-2 in the O'Connell Center, with the lone losses coming via a 69-66 loss in the home opener against Michigan, and lost to then-#6 Kentucky in their SEC opener, 59-56. The Gators defeated their rival then-#21 Florida State, 72-58.

The Gators are led offensively by 6'0 forward Jennifer George, who averages a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds per game. She has reached a double-double in each of her last seven games. Former Gamecock Jordan Jones averages 13 points per game and is shooting 36% from behind the arc. Jaterra Bonds averages just under 10 points per game and Lanita Bartley averages nine. As Staley said, the Gators have pulled down 302 offensive rebounds, an average of just over 20 per game. George has 74 of those offensive rebounds.

"I think it's an entire team effort when it comes to rebounding when you face someone like a Jennifer George who's averaging six offensive rebounds in the last five games," Staley said. "For us it is going to take a team effort to keep someone like that off the boards."

South Carolina will have to turn to that aggressive defense that is ranked second in the country behind #2 UConn in scoring defense, and rely on its 10th best turnover ratio in the country (7.2) if it hopes to end a five game losing streak to the Gators. South Carolina has lost the last two meetings by a combined five points in two games that have been decided in the final 18 seconds. Florida took a 59-56 win in Gainesville in 2010 after Florida took a one point lead with 14 seconds left. La'Keisha Sutton had her shot blocked by George and then former Gamecock Kelsey Bone missed the follow-up with four seconds left as the Gators made both free throws at the end of the game.

Last season, they only needed to get the ball in. Holding on to a 63-62 lead with 18 seconds left taking the ball off by the Gator bench, Sutton had the ball stolen by Bartley, who raced for a lay-up and was fouled by Sutton in the process. Bartley completed the three-point play and the Gators won 65-63. Those two heart-breaking losses still weigh on the mind of Staley.

"Looking over the past two years, losing to Florida two years ago at Florida and losing to Florida here last year I thought were two games that we should have gotten," Staley said. "A lot of people put emphasis on us not taking care of business at the end (of the seasons), but Florida was a statement game where we could have possibly been in some talks about getting into the (NCAA) Tournament."

While it is still early to talk about the NCAA Tournament, if history is any indication, this is a road game the Gamecocks need to steal.

Quotes courtesy of gamecocksonline.com

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