WBB: Carolina returns home to face Drexel

The South Carolina women's basketball team returns home from the Virgin Islands Wednesday after taking the Paradise Jam with three wins over Thanksgiving weekend. Now 7-0, Carolina hosts Drexel in non-conference play Wednesday night

Date: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Columbia, S.C.
Arena: Colonial Life Arena (18,000)
Tickets: $7 Adult, $4 youth under 12
TV: None
Live Video: GamecocksOnline.com
Radio: WISW 1320 AM (Brad Muller); GamecocksOnline.com
Live Stats: GamecocksOnline.com
Drexel Series: SC leads 1-0; In Columbia: First Meeting; In Philadelphia: SC leads 1-0

The South Carolina women's basketball team left a week ago to spend Thanksgiving in the Virgin Islands and play in the Paradise Jam. Carolina left Columbia 4-0 on the season and came back with a 7-0 record, a trophy, and a spot in the top 25 in the USA Today Coach's poll at 24th. Six teams are still ahead of Carolina waiting to break into the top 25 of the AP poll. Carolina returns home to take on Drexel Wednesday night in non-conference action to host Drexel. The Dragons are a two point loss away from a perfect 5-0 start themselves. Carolina escaped with a 62-58 win last season in Philadelphia.

"I think the Virgin Islands prepared us for this situation of having a short turnover because we didn't practice yesterday, but I think this team is ready to play," Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. "They get up and ready to play for games."

Despite the success of last year's team and the 7-0 start this season, Carolina has not earned a lot of respect early on this season. After losing La'keisha Sutton, Markeshia Grant, Charenee Stephens, and Courtney Newton - all predominantly starters - and bringing in four freshman and a JUCO transfer, many are reluctant to give this team much praise. Still, this team has done what it is supposed to do and that's beat the teams on the schedule. Six of the seven wins are by double digits and four are by 20+ points.

"It comes with time," Staley said. "Just like with us trying to get our program established and respected. Obviously you have to keep pounding the pavement because South Carolina isn't a program that people are going to respect right off the bat. I think we've slowly but surely began to show people that year in and year out our progression and the things that we've been able to improve on each and every year. I don't think this year is any different."

One of the reasons the Gamecocks have been so dominant early on in the season is due to asserting themselves on the glass. Carolina averages 48.7 rebounds per game, more than 20 above their opponents average. Carolina has been particularly dominant on the offensive glass, outrebounding their opponents 146-73. In fact Carolina has more offensive rebounds than their opponents have defensive rebounds. Aleighsa Welch leads the team with 9.6 rebounds per game and Ashley Bruner is right behind with 7.6 rebounds per game. Surprisingly, freshman guard Tiffany Mitchell is third on the team in rebounds with 6.6 per game.

"I like our team. They have great personalities," Staley said. "What really jumps off the page is the fact that we're rebounding. We outrebounding our opponents by a considerable amount. That means we're getting the hustle plays and we've emphasized that ever since August. Once we put an emphasis on it and we put our minds to it we can be pretty good at it."

Bruner and Welch also lead the team in scoring with 12.4 and 11.7 points per game respectively. They are the only two averaging double figures, but Mitchell is right there with 9.9 points per game and Ieasia Walker has 9.3 points

"I knew coming into the season that our post players would really get out to a good start and lead our team in points," Staley said. "I knew that because that's where our experience is and that's where our comfort level is at this time."

Drexel should provide Carolina a challenge, but it should be a game the Gamecocks win. If the Gamecocks win Wednesday, win on the road against a Seton Hall team that has lost four straight, and then beat Furman at home on the December 9th they will head into a December 19th match-up with top-ranked Stanford.

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