WBB: #24 South Carolina hosts #9 Kentucky

The South Carolina women's basketball team will play its fourth nationally ranked opponent Sunday afternoon when the Gamecocks play host to #9 Kentucky at 3:00 p.m. at the Colonial Life Arena. The Wildcats are the highest ranked opponent the Gamecocks have faced to date, and join LSU as the only remaining unbeaten teams in SEC play.

Game Information
Date:
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Time: 3 p.m.
Location: Columbia, S.C.
Arena: Colonial Life Arena
Tickets: $7 adult, $4 youth (17 & under)
TV: None
Radio: WISW 1320 AM (Brad Muller and Marcy Girton)
Kentucky Series: UK leads 28-18; In Columbia: SC leads 13-8; In Lexington: UK leads 17-5; At Neutral Site: UK leads 3-0

In a game that lived up to its billing as a battle between two great defenses, it was the South Carolina women's basketball team who came out on the short end of a 58-48 loss at LSU Thursday night despite holding a 27-20 halftime advantage. The Gamecocks must put that loss behind them in a hurry as they play host to #9 Kentucky Sunday afternoon in what will be the backend of the toughest two-game stretch this season.

"For us, the way that we played, we actually left the LSU game in the LSU locker room," head coach Dawn Staley said. "We didn't want to talk about it, it's over with, we're going to move on because we have to because we have a big opponent coming in that I feel is a must win."

South Carolina turned the ball over 25 times in the loss to the Lady Tigers, including 15 from guards Markeshia Grant and La'Keisha Sutton.

"We didn't protect the ball," Staley said of the loss. "I think their length bothered us, but we didn't keep them off the free throw line so it's something in which it was the perfect storm so to speak."

The perfect storm that produced 23 second-half free throw attempts for the Lady Tigers led to a double-technical and ejection of Staley, the first in her career as a player or coach.

"For me I think I lost my cool and that's something I have to control," Staley said of her ejection. "Emotionally, as the leader of this basketball team, I don't want my players to put themselves in that position, but I'd rather be tossed than any of our players. I just thought it was an opportunity for me to voice what I thought was taking place in the second half."

Carolina must put that game behind them if they hope to get their first victory over an AP top 10 team since beating Vanderbilt on January 3rd, 2002, just over 10 years ago.

"We look forward to playing Kentucky. It's always a game we get excited for; it's a top 10 opportunity for us to build our resume and to play in the comforts of our home," Staley said.

The Lady Cats join LSU as the only two remaining undefeated teams in conference play after LSU beat Carolina and Kentucky knocked off Tennessee Thursday night. It was in that game that Kentucky's A'dia Mathies, in is third in the conference in scoring, just went off against the Lady Vols. Mathies scored 34 points, including the final two with 4.2 seconds left to play, in a thrilling 61-60 win. The 5'9 junior will certainly be the focal point for South Carolina's tenacious defense that is still ranked second in the nation in points against.

"She's playing great basketball right now," Staley said of Mathies. "I think we just have to make it difficult for her to catch the ball and just make her work for everything that she gets. We know once the ball gets in her hand that anything can happen. She's mixing it up; she's going to the basket, she's knocking down three's, pull ups, you name it she's doing it and we've got to figure a way to kind of cut down her production."

Not only is this a game in which the Gamecocks have an opportunity to knock off a top 10 team, it's also the only home game in the middle of four road games. Carolina split the first two, beating Florida and losing to LSU, and will face Auburn and Vanderbilt next week on the road.

"For us, since we've been on the road the past two games and if you look past Kentucky we've got two more road games," Staley said. "In order for us to continue to establish ourselves as hopefully being one of the top teams in this conference you do have to take care of home because wins on the road are hard to come by."

We Back Pat

Sunday also marks the beginning of the SEC initiative in support of legendary Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt. The pioneer of today's women's basketball, Summitt was diagnosed with early onset dementia in May, news that shook the foundation of the sport. This week the SEC schools will be raising money in the "We Back Pat" initiative.

"The Gamecocks are wearing special shooting shirts for the game, and fans will see several PSAs and other information on Alzheimer's Disease and the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund throughout the arena," gamecocksonline.com released. "The Gamecocks actually began their quest to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer's back in October when they formed the "4 Coach Summitt" team for the Walk for Life at Finlay Park here in Columbia. The team's donation page will remain active through the end of January as the team hopes to present the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund a check for $20,000 when the Gamecocks take on the Lady Vols in Knoxville on Thu., Feb. 2. Fans who want to help can go to: http://walktoendalz.kintera.org/columbiasc/4coachsummitt to make a donation."

"It's an initiative that all of the coaches in the SEC have rallied behind," Staley said. "We think the world of Coach Summitt. We think that the fact that we're in this fight together. Hopefully we can find a cure so we can have Coach Summitt in this game for much longer."

Quotes courtesy of gamecocksonline.com

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