Women's Hoops: Vandy- USC Preview

The #6 Vanderbilt Commodores traveled to snowy Columbia, South Carolina Wednesday afternoon for a Thursday night showdown with #14 South Carolina Lady Gamecocks.

This game will mark Vanderbilt's third chance to beat a ranked opponent on the road. In the two previous road games against ranked teams, the Commodores lost 69-50 to #1 Connecticut in the WNIT finals and 81-71 to #9 Texas Tech.

South Carolina is enjoying its best start ever. Only a few years ago, the Lady Gamecocks were perennial contenders for the last spot in the SEC, finishing with conference records of 1-11, 3-11, 0-14, and 3-11 prior to last season. Last year Head Coach Susan Walvius led USC to their best ever conference record at 6-8. This year the Lady Gamecocks are off to a 12-1 start, with wins over #11 Duke and #19 North Carolina.

One key to South Carolina's success has been the return of 6'0 forward Jocelyn Penn. Penn, who missed last season because of pregnancy and the birth of her daughter, is averaging 17.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. She's joined in the frontcourt by 6'4 senior forward Teresa Geter (10.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg) who is in her second year at USC following her transfer from Tennessee and 6'4 junior center Petra Ujhelyi (5.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg).

Another key to their success is  6'1 senior guard Shaun Gortman, whom Jim Foster considers to be arguably the most athletic player in the SEC. Gortman, who averaged  11.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg last year, is averaging 15.1 ppg and 6. 8 rpg this year. Although she's best known as a slasher, she can also hit from long range, where she's averaging 32.7% (16 for 49) for the year. She'll almost certainly be drafted by the WNBA this spring.

Besides Gortman, South Carolina has several other 3-point threats. 5'11 sophomore point guard Cristina Ciocan 5'7 doesn't take many long-range shots, but shoots them with 40% accuracy when she does. Sophomore guard  Kelly Morrone, who red-shirted last season due to medical problems, averages .375 from three-point range. Morrone was the hero of South Carolina's win over Duke, when she nailed 8 three-pointers out of 9 attempts. In addition, 6'2 senior forward Tatyana Troin, averages 42.5% from behind the arc.

This game will be a stringent test for the Commodores. The Lady Gamecocks feature height and athleticism in the front court, speed and athleticism in the backcourt. The Commodores have often struggled on the road this year, even in games that ended up in the W column. After the loss at Texas Tech last Saturday, Coach Foster has made some adjustments to improve defense. This game will be an excellent opportunity to see if they're paying off.

Probable starting lineups:

#14 South Carolina Lady Gamecocks (12-1)
F 45 Jocelyn Penn (6-0, Jr.)
F 40 Teresa Geter (6-4, Sr.)
C 00 Petra Ujhelyi (6-4, Jr.)
G 32 Shaun Gortman (6-1, Sr.)
G 15 Cristina Ciocan (5-11, So.)

#6 Vanderbilt Commodores (12-2)
F 13 Zuzi Klimesova (6-2, Sr.)
F 32 Ashley Earley (5-11, Fr.)
C 21 Chantelle Anderson (6-6, Jr.)
G 33 Jillian Danker (6-1, Sr.)
G 22 Ashley McElhiney (5-6, Jr.)

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