Preview: Vanderbilt vs. South Carolina

Feb. 15, 2017

Teams: Vanderbilt (12-13, 2-10) vs. No. 6 South Carolina (21-3, 11-1)
Day, Date: Thursday, Feb. 16
Tip-off time: 6 p.m. CT
Site: Columbia, S.C.
Radio: WNSR 560 AM and 95.9 FM
TV: SEC Network
Game Notes: Vanderbilt Game Notes (SC) Get Acrobat Reader

After engineering a mild upset earlier this week, the Vanderbilt women will try to pull off a much bigger one on Thursday night. The Commodores -- who posted a 70-68 victory over LSU on Monday -- are set for a match-up against No. 6-ranked South Carolina at Colonial Life Arena in a game that could have potential postseason ramifications for both teams. The Gamecocks (21-3, 11-1), who suffered a loss to top-ranked UConn on Monday, are currently tied with Mississippi State for first place in the SEC, and are trying to build their case to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Commodores, meanwhile, are hoping to produce a late-season run that would enable them to move up the conference standings and possibly earn a postseason berth of their own. Vanderbilt needs to climb five spots in the standings, from 14th to 10th, in order to avoid playing on the opening day of the SEC Tournament for the third consecutive season. Here's a closer look at Thursday's game:

l Rank and file: As they head down the stretch, the Vanderbilt women keep running into ranked opponents. Thursday's match-up against No. 6 South Carolina will mark the third time in the past four games that the Commodores have faced a team ranked in the AP poll. They had two such games last week, when they suffered consecutive losses to No. 25 Kentucky and No. 4 Mississippi State. (Kentucky has since fallen out of the poll, while Mississippi State has climbed to No. 3). Prior to the game against Kentucky on Feb. 5, the Commodores had gone 10 straight games -- spanning 44 days (from Dec. 22 to Feb. 4) -- without meeting a ranked opponent. For the season, the Commodores are 0-4 against ranked teams, with losses to Indiana, Louisville, Kentucky and Mississippi State.

l Update on the 'Dores: Here's the latest scoop on the Commodores as they head into Thursday's game:
   * Vanderbilt will be looking to build on the momentum it gained from Monday's 70-68 comeback win over LSU. Senior forward Marqu'es Webb scored a career-high 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for the Commodores, who closed the game on a 20-9 run to earn the win.
   * Vanderbilt continues to be one of the most accurate and most prolific 3-point shooting teams in the country. The Commodores are ranked No. 3 in the nation in 3-point percentage at 40.0 (though Feb. 14) and are averaging an SEC-best 7.4 three-pointers per game. Vanderbilt has compiled 42 three-pointers in the past five games.
   * Vanderbilt's touted freshmen class -- Kayla Overbeck, Kaleigh Clemons-Green, LeaLea Carter, Cierra Walker, and Erin Whalen -- is combining for 32.9 points, 16.5 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game. They have accounted for 47.2 percent of Vanderbilt's scoring, 41.9 percent of VU's rebounds and 52.1 percent of the team's assists.

l Vanderbilt WBB, MBB teams to honor Nashville Civil Rights leaders: In celebration of Black History Month, Vanderbilt athletics is set to honor 21 of Nashville's leading civil rights figures at its men's and women's basketball games as part of its equality weekend by wearing special Nike uniforms during its basketball games this weekend. The university will honor the 21 individuals, as well as celebrate the 50th anniversary of Vanderbilt's Perry Wallace and Godfrey Dillard breaking the color barrier in SEC basketball, with special events surrounding its men's basketball game against South Carolina on Saturday, Feb. 18 and women's game against Ole Miss on Sunday, Feb. 19. The equality weekend uniforms, created exclusively for Vanderbilt by Nike, serve as a way to recognize those who fought for social justice and civil rights in the South, and beyond. "It is going to be a special (weekend) at Memorial Gym," said women's basketball coach Stephanie White. "It's a tremendous honor to be a part of this initiative. We are both proud and humbled to have the opportunity to recognize and celebrate the men and women who helped shape our country and opened so many doors that were previously closed." More information on the event available HERE

l Scouting South Carolina: The Gamecocks, coming off a loss to top-ranked UConn on Monday night, have strong numbers in seemingly every category: They rank 16th in the nation in field goal percentage (46.2), 13th in FG percentage defense (34.9), 12th in rebound margin (+9.0), 12th in 3-pt defense (26.8) and 14th in blocked shots (5.8 per game). ... The South Carolina roster features two of the SEC's most impressive and most imposing players: A'ja Wilson and Alaina Coates. ... Coates, a 6-4 senior, leads the SEC in rebounds (11.7), double-doubles (8) and FG percentage (67.0). ... Wilson, a 6-5 junior, ranks fourth in the SEC in FG percentage (57.4), fifth in scoring (17.0 ppg) and third in blocked shots (2.2 per game).

l Series History: Thursday's game will be the 35th all-time meeting between the teams, with Vanderbilt owning a 21-13 lead in the series. ... South Carolina has won the last seven match-ups against Vanderbilt and eight of the past nine. ... The most recent contest between the Commodores and Gamecocks came last season in Nashville, when South Carolina posted a 71-61 victory (more on that game below). ... Vanderbilt owns an 8-8 all-time record on the Gamecocks' home floor, but hasn't posted a road win in this series since 2011. Vanderbilt is 0-4 in Columbia since that win.

l Erin Emerging: Erin Whalen has been doing some big things for the Commodores in the past few weeks. The 6-1 freshman has averaged 12.1 points and 4.1 rebounds over the past seven games after averaging just 1.4 points and 0.8 rebounds in the first five SEC games. Whalen has reached double figures in four of the past six games, and has gone 14-for-30 (46.7 percent) from 3-point range in the past five. Making her first career start against Alabama (1/26), she scored a game-high 22 points to fuel Vanderbilt's 87-80 win. Whalen is shooting 42.7 percent from long range for the season, and she is averaging a team-high 12.6 points per game over the past five games.

l Walker slowed by injuries: Freshmen Cierra Walker continues to be slowed by stress reactions in both of her feet. Walker was limited to just two minutes of playing time in Monday's win over LSU. Prior to that game, the freshman from Oregon City, Ore., had missed four of the previous five games. Walker leads the team in assists per game (3.2) and her assist-to-turnover ratio (2.3) ranks fourth in the SEC.

l Star Power: The Commodores rank among the best in the SEC and best in the nation in numerous categories, both collectively and individually. Here's a look (stats are through Feb. 14):

   * Vanderbilt ranks third in the nation and leads the SEC in 3-point accuracy at 40.0 percent.
   * The Commodores are 27th in the country in free throws made (368).
   * Vanderbilt is fourth in the SEC in free throw percentage at 74.0.
   * The 'Dores lead the SEC in 3-pointers made per game (7.4) and total 3-pointers made (184).
   * Senior post player Marqu'es Webb ranks fifth in the SEC in rebounds per game at 9.0. She is  second in the SEC in offensive rebounds (3.5 per game) and also ranks seventh on the conference's career rebounding list among active players with 657.
   * Freshman Cierra Walker ranks fourth in the SEC in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.3.
   * Kayla Overbeck ranks ninth in the conference in rebounds per game at 7.5.
   * VU has three players who rank among the SEC's top-10 in career 3-pointers: Rebekah Dahlman (seventh with 124), Rachel Bell (tied for eighth with 106) and Christa Reed (tied for eighth with 106).

l Last Time Out: Marqu'es Webb had a big night and Rebekah Dahlman hit a big shot. Together, the two Vanderbilt veterans helped send the Commodores to a 70-68 victory over LSU on Monday night at Memorial Gym. Dahlman connected on a go-ahead 3-pointer from the corner with 28 seconds remaining and it proved to be the game-winner for the Commodores (12-13, 2-10), who outscored LSU 20-11 in the final 10 minutes to earn the comeback victory. Webb recorded a double-double with a career-high 20 points and 10 rebounds. She finished 6-of-6 from the floor and 8-of-9 from the foul line. Her final rebound of the night came after LSU's Rina Hill missed a potential game-tying shot just before the buzzer. Raigyne Moncrief paced LSU (17-8, 6-6) with 20 points. Christa Reed added 10 for Vanderbilt. The Commodores trailed 59-50 with 9:22 to play in the fourth quarter before closing the game on a 20-9 run to earn the win.

l Last season vs. South Carolina: South Carolina's Tiffany Mitchell, the two-time Southeastern Conference player of the year, scored a season-high 22 points, helping the second-ranked Gamecocks defeat Vanderbilt 71-61 on Jan. 7, 2016 at Memorial Gym. The Commodores (11-4, 0-2) went toe-to-toe with the Gamecocks (14-0, 2-0) in a contest that featured 18 lead changes and eight ties, but the Gamecocks finished the game on a 14-5 run to pull away and beat Vanderbilt for the seventh consecutive time. A'ja Wilson, the Gamecocks' leading scorer at 17.1 points per game, had a season-low four points. Tina Roy finished with 13 points, and Alaina Coates scored 11 points and had 10 rebounds. Rebekah Dahlman led Vanderbilt with 14 points.

l Up Next: Vanderbilt hosts Ole Miss on Sunday at 2 p.m.



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