Date: Thursday, February 2, 2012
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Knoxville, Tenn.
Arena: Thompson-Boling Arena (21,678)
TV: CSS (Matt Stewart and Joe Ciampi); ESPN3
Radio: WISW 1320 AM (Brad Muller and Marcy Girton); GamecocksOnline.com
Tennessee Series: UT leads 42-1; In Knoxville: UT leads 20-0; In Columbia: UT leads 18-1; At Neutral Site: UT leads 4-0
When you think of women's basketball, one program and one coach comes to mind; Tennessee and head coach Pat Summitt. South Carolina (17-5, 6-3 SEC) will take the road to Knoxville Thursday night for a meeting with eighth-ranked Tennessee (16-5, 7-1 SEC).
One glance into the rafters of Thompson-Boling Arena will tell anyone all they need to know about the Lady Vols. 15 SEC regular season championships, 15 SEC tournament Championships, a trip to the NCAA tournament every year since women's sports became NCAA-sanctioned in the 1981-82 season, 18 Final Four appearances, and eight National Championships.
Intimidating? Certainly. If you let it.
"We've been there and we've done that," Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. "I think we've gotten close, and at the same time, we're far from seeing the banners. It's time to play basketball, and not think about anything besides winning the basketball game."
Winning has been anything but common for the Gamecocks in this series. In fact, it is almost non-existent in series' 43 games. Carolina has won just once, 32 years ago when the Gamecocks took a 56-52 win in Columbia. Since then Tennessee has won 40 straight.
"I basically told them, the time is now," Staley said.
That has been the team's rallying cry since the preseason, and now very well could be the best chance the Gamecocks have ever had to pull out a victory in Knoxville, where it is 0-20.
"I like who we're taking in there as far as defense, and what we've been able to do from an offensive standpoint when we're on," Staley said. "I told them we don't have to play perfect basketball but there are things we do have to do to be successful against Tennessee."
Carolina has come close to knocking off the Lady Vols the last two seasons. In 2009-10 South Carolina led for all but 29 seconds in the first 37:13 of the game before falling in the final two minutes, 60-55. Last season the Gamecocks went toe-to-toe with the Lady Vols the entire first and made a furious rally in the second half to get within five points with just under five minutes to play, but ran out of gas as Tennessee closed on a 14-4 run to win by 15 points. However, both of those were in Columbia, this is in Knoxville. The Gamecocks will hope to take the momentum from its current three-game winning streak and come out of Rocky Top on top of the mountain.
"The confidence level is pretty high," Staley said. "The morale is high because we are on a winning note and we've done things the right way; going back to playing defense the way we've been playing defense. Our offense is being jumpstarted by players taking shots that they naturally take. Hopefully we'll do those things on the road."
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