PREVIEW: Gamecocks women vs. Maryland in Top-10 tilt Sunday afternoon

PREVIEW: Gamecocks women vs. Maryland in Top-10 tilt Sunday afternoon

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - No. 10/11 South Carolina takes on a ranked opponent for the first time this season when the Gamecocks host No. 9/10 Maryland Sunday at 5:30 p.m. at Colonial Life Arena. The Gamecocks (2-0) and Terrapins (3-0) are meeting for the second time in as many seasons and for the first time in Columbia.

SOUTH CAROLINA NOTABLES

• A pair of Gamecocks have earned spots on national award watch lists so far this season. Junior guard Tyasha Harris is on the Citizen Naismith Trophy and Nancy Lieberman Award lists, while senior forward Alexis Jennings is among those tipped for the Katrina McClain Award.

• While much has been made of the Gamecocks' revamped offense, it is the defense that is nationally ranked early in the season. South Carolina leads the country in blocked shots per game (11.5), ranks fifth in turnovers forced per game (30.5) and is sixth in steals per game (17.5).

• After seeing a post player lead the team in scoring the last three seasons, a pair of South Carolina guards top the offense so far this season. Junior Te'a Cooper leads the way with 16.0 points per game, ranking ninth in the SEC. Sophomore guard Bianca Jackson has added 11.0 points per game so far this season.

• Even with junior guard Te'a Cooper leading the team in scoring for the first two games, the South Carolina offense has been widely distributed across the lineup with eight Gamecocks averaging at least 6.0 points.

• Offensively, South Carolina is looking outside more than any ever in the Dawn Staley era. Averaging 7.0 made 3s per game, the Gamecocks rank fourth in the SEC in the category with the program's highest average since making 7.2 per game in 2003-04. The highest made 3s average of the Staley era was 5.4 in 2015-16.

• The Gamecocks and Terrapins have been in lock step by more than their national rankings this season as both have been able to claim the top recruiting class of 2019. The Terrapins owned the ranking heading into signing day on Wednesday before the Gamecocks took the spot with the addition of Laeticia Amihere that night.

BY THE NUMBERS

8 Returning letterwinners for South Carolina, including four starters, who accounted for 64.7 percent of last season's scoring

11.5 Blocks per game by the Gamecocks this season, which leads the nation

63.0 Field goal attempts per game by South Carolina this season, the highest of the Dawn Staley era

SCOUTING MARYLAND

The Terrapins have been dominant early this season, but, like the Gamecocks, are facing their first nationally ranked opponent of the year tonight. With four Terrapins averaging double-figure points, including freshman forward Shakira Austin who averages a double-double (11.3 ppt, 13.0 rpg), Maryland scores 81.3 points per game to outscore its opponents by 35.7 points per game.

Freshman guard Taylor Mikesell leads the offense with 15.3 points per game, followed closely by junior wing Kaila Charles at 15.0 ppg on 50.0 percent field goal shooting. Junior forward Stephanie Jones rounds out the quartet of double-digit scorers.

The Terps are strong on the boards, ranking 12th in the nation in rebounding margin (+18.7). Behind Austin, Jones pulls down 9.0 boards per game, while Charles averages 7.0.

PICKING UP THE PACE

With the deepest guard lineup of Dawn Staley South Carolina career, head coach Dawn Staley is looking to lift the game's tempo on both sides of the ball. While the offense may still be finding its footing at the new pace, the defense has reaped rewards early.

South Carolina's defense ranks fifth in the nation in turnovers forced, picking up 30.5 per game, and is sixth in steals per game (17.5). The effort has helped offset the Gamecocks' own 19.5 turnovers per game to put the team at 14th in the nation in turnover margin (+11.0).

Offensively, South Carolina averages 63.0 field goal attempts per game. Over the previous 10 seasons, the Gamecocks averaged 57.2 field goal attempts per game with a high of 59.5 per game in 2009-10 and a low of 53.3 in 2013-14.

BLOCK PARTY

South Carolina has long been a shot-blocking force centered around dominant, physical post players. This season, the Gamecocks lead the nation in blocked shots per game at 11.5 per game. Against Clemson, the Gamecocks tied the school record with 16 blocked shots.

Forwards Mikiah Herbert Harrigan and Victaria Saxton lead the way with 3.5 blocks per game each, which ranks them eighth in the nation. Five other Gamecocks have recorded at least one block already this season.

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