Women's college basketball preview: Vanderbilt Commodores versus South Carolina Gamecocks

The Vanderbilt Commodore women host No. 2 ranked South Carolina on Thursday night at Memorial Gym. Here's your VandyMania.com preview of the game.

The South Carolina women have cruised through their first 13 games unblemished.  Ohio State, Clemson, Arizona State, Duke and UCLA are some of the major programs the Gamecock women have defeated. On Sunday the South Carolina women opened conference play with a lopsided victory over Arkansas.  

Looking at the Gamecock statistical leaders, forward A'ja Wilson is the team's leading scorer.  Against the Razorbacks on Sunday, the 6-foot-5 Wilson had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Tiffany Davis and 6-4 center Alaina Coates also average in double digits for the USC women. 

South Carolina's bread and butter is its strong inside scoring but a couple of players can hit the three for the Gamecocks.  Mitchell and guard Tina Roy are those two players. Coates and 6-2 forward Sarah Imovbioh are the most consistent from field goal range with Roy hitting nearly 70 percent.  

Coates leads the Gamecocks in rebounds with 118.  Wilson has 102 boards and also has blocked a team leading 30 shots.  Senior guard Khadijah Sessions has 38 assists and 26 steals. 

Looking at the Vandy-South Carolina stats comparison, the Gamecocks are better offensively, in rebounding and blocking shots while Vandy is the better shooting team, especially from 3-point range.

This is the first home game this season in which the Commodore women are heavy underdogs.  If the women can make some shots while slowing down the Carolina inside threats, the Commodores could pull off a stunner.  

Thursday's game tips off at 8 pm central time and can be seen on the SEC Network.

For VandyMania.com and Scout, this is Don Yates.


Teams: Vanderbilt (11-3, 0-1) vs. No. 2 South Carolina (13-0, 1-0) 
Day, Date: Thursday, Jan. 7 
Tip-off time: 8 p.m. 
Site: Memorial Gym (Nashville, Tenn.) 
Radio: 560 AM / 95.9 FM (Play-by-play: Charlie Mattos) 
TV: SEC Network 
Game Notes: Available later today 
Tickets: Tickets can be purchased by calling 615-322-GOLD, visiting the McGugin Center ticket office or logging on to vucommodores.com
The Vanderbilt women have generated plenty of Memorial magic through the years, and on Thursday night, they'll have a chance to produce some more. Playing their first home game in more than two weeks, the Commodores host No. 2-ranked and undefeated South Carolina at 8 p.m. (SEC Network). Vanderbilt, which is 8-0 at home this season, has pulled off multiple upsets against Top-10 opponents at Memorial Gym during head coach Melanie Balcomb's tenure, with the most recent being a 74-63 win over No. 8-ranked Tennessee on Jan. 12, 2014. The Commodores will be looking to slay an even bigger giant when they face the Gamecocks (13-0), who are one of only three unbeaten teams in Division I, along with Texas and UConn. Here's a closer look at Thursday's game: 
l The skinny on the Commodores: The Commodores will enter Thursday's game with hopes of rebounding from Sunday's 55-52 loss to Ole Miss in their SEC opener. Vanderbilt owned a 12-point lead early in the fourth quarter but feel victim to a frantic late rally by the Rebels in the final game ever played at Tad Smith Coliseum. The defeat ended a 10-game winning steak for the Commodores, who reeled off four wins in late November and then went undefeated in December. 
l What's trending: Vanderbilt continues to be among the nation's best in several significant categories. The Commodores are eighth in the country -- and first in the SEC -- in field goal percentage (48.8) and are ranked No. 12 nationally in 3-point percentage (38.7). VU's defense ranks seventh in the country, and No. 1 in the SEC, in points allowed per game at 50.5. The Commodores rank 15th nationally in rebound margin (10.6). 
l Elite guests: South Carolina is the highest-ranked team to visit Memorial Gym since Feb. 17, 2008, when No. 1 Tennessee defeated the Commodores, 81-68. … Vanderbilt's most recent win over a team ranked as high as No. 2 in the AP poll came on Feb. 2, 2002, when the Commodores beat No. 2 Tennessee, 76-59, at Memorial Gym. 
l New uniforms: The Commodores will debut new uniforms for Thursday's game. Vanderbilt fans were given a sneak preview of the new gray uniforms on the team's social media outlets this week. 
l Scouting the Gamecocks: South Carolina (13-0) is one of only three unbeaten teams in Division I WBB, along with Texas and UConn. … South Carolina superstar sophomore A'ja Wilson is having a fantastic season. The 6-5 forward leads South Carolina, and ranks fourth in the SEC, in scoring at 17.1 points per game. She also leads the Gamecocks and ranks second in the SEC in rebounding at 9.3 rpg and leads the conference in blocked shots (2.7 bpg). … Tiffany Mitchell, the two-time SEC player of the year, is averaging 14.0 points per game and Alaina Coates is averaging 13.1 ppg. … The Gamecocks rank fourth in the conference in scoring at 78.5 per game, and South Carolina's defense is limiting opponents to 32.8 percent shooting from the floor, which is the second-best mark in the conference. … The Gamecocks rank second in the SEC in blocked shots at 5.7 per game and rank sixth nationally in scoring margin at 24.5 points per game. 
l Sizing up the Series: Thursday's game marks the 33rd all-time meeting between Vanderbilt and South Carolina, with the Commodores owning a 21-12 lead in the series. … South Carolina has been in control of late, however, winning the past six matchups against VU and seven of the last eight. … The most recent meeting between teams came last season in Columbia, S.C., where the Gamecocks beat the Commodores, 89-59, onFeb. 15. … Head coach Melanie Balcomb has gone 9-8 against the Gamecocks, including 4-5 in Nashville, during her tenure at Vanderbilt. … Vanderbilt is 9-8 all-time against South Carolina in Nashville. … Prior to the 2009-10 season, the Commodores owned a 20-5 lead in the series, including winning eight straight from the 2003-04 to the 2008-09 seasons. … The series dates back to the 1990-91 season. 
l Last year's game against SC: Tiffany Mitchell and A'ja Wilson scored 20 points apiece as No. 1-ranked South Carolina rolled to an 89-59 victory over Vanderbilt on Feb. 15, 2015 in Columbia, S.C. Mitchell sparked South Carolina with 15 first-half points to help the Gamecocks build a 46-27 halftime lead. Rebekah Dahlman finished with a team-high 13 points for Vanderbilt before fouling out. Alaina Coates added 14 points for the Gamecocks. The game was tied at 15-15 with 11:29 to go in the first half before South Carolina took off on a 31-12 surge the rest of the half to seize control. 
l VU's most recent game: The Commodores suffered a heartbreaking 55-52 loss to Ole Miss on Sunday in their SEC opener. Ole Miss junior Erika Sisk converted a 3-point play with 1.5 seconds remaining to cap a frantic, fourth-quarter comeback by the Rebels in the last game ever played at Tad Smith Coliseum. The defeat ended a 10-game winning streak for the Commodores (11-3, 0-1), who owned a 12-point lead early in the fourth quarter and a five-point lead with 2:02 remaining but couldn't hold on. Sisk finished with a game-high 18 points. Christa Reed scored 16 to lead the Commodores. Ole Miss outscored Vanderbilt 20-5 during the final 7:03 of the fourth quarter to rally for the win. Sisk's game-winning basket gave Ole Miss the lead for the first time since the opening minute of the game.

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