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South Carolina travels to Purdue for 'an away game that we need,' Dawn Staley says

The State (Columbia, SC) logo The State (Columbia, SC) 12/16/2018 By Greg Hadley, The State (Columbia, S.C.)

Dec. 15--Who: No. 25 South Carolina (5-4) vs. Purdue (7-3)

When: 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16

Where: Mackey Arena, West Lafayette, Indiana

Watch: ESPN2

Radio: 107.5 FM in Columbia

Series history: Purdue owns a 2-1 all-time edge over South Carolina, including a 1-0 record in West Lafayette. All three of the games have taken place since 2000 and none of the winning margins have been less than eight points.

Last meeting: The Gamecocks traveled to Mackey Arena in the 2012 NCAA tournament and upset the No. 13 Boilermakers, 72-61, on their home floor to advance to the Sweet 16, the program's first in 10 years.

3 STORYLINES

Rust-busting to do: The combination of final exams and the indefinite postponement of last Sunday's game vs. Duke due to inclement weather means South Carolina will have gone 11 days between games.

During the long break, Dawn Staley told reporters Friday that the past week's practice had to be limited by schoolwork, but she said the Gamecocks were able to use their time wisely and make some progress, principally with a scrimmage against the program's male practice players.

"They gave us a really good run. We got some work in and we look forward to finally playing in a game this Sunday," Staley said.

First true road test: Due to the Duke contest that wasn't, South Carolina has still only played one true road game so far this season, an easy win to begin the year at Alabama State. The Purdue contest will be significantly more difficult, as the Boilermakers are 5-0 at home thus far, including a 74-63 upset of then-No. 21 Miami on Nov. 29.

Capturing a victory on the road would be significant for the team's RPI, Staley noted. Through Thursday's games, South Carolina stands 82nd in the country, with Purdue at 60th. The Gamecocks' best RPI win this year to date was at home against Clemson, currently No. 47.

"We know that it's going to be a tough game. It's a challenge in that they're super aggressive, they play a lot of different defenses," Staley said of Purdue. "They've got players than can score at every position. It's an away game that we need."

Rankings streak on the line: It seems all but certain that a South Carolina loss on Sunday would drop the Gamecocks from the Associated Press top 25 rankings, snapping a streak of 121 consecutive appearances in the poll (including preseason rankings) that dates back to Dec. 10, 2013.

Carolina started the year at No. 10 and has been in decline since, most recently falling to No. 25 after poor weather denied Staley and her team a chance at a strong road win over Duke. The Gamecocks have already been dropped by the coaches poll, but Staley kept a typical coach's mentality about the rankings.

"I'm into controlling the controllables. I can't control, I don't get a vote, I don't really care about that," Staley told reporters about the AP poll. "That really doesn't define who we are."

Still, falling out of the top 25 would mark the end of the fifth longest active streak in women's basketball, and that's significant, if only to indicate how unusual and frustrating this season's start has been for USC. On the other hand, a win would set Carolina up nicely to finish nonconference play on a hot streak.

NOTES

South Carolina projected starting lineup: Junior guard Tyasha Harris, redshirt junior guard Te'a Cooper, redshirt senior guard Donyiah Cliney, redshirt senior forward Alexis Jennings, junior forward Mikiah Herbert Harrigan

Purdue projected starting lineup: Junior guard Dominique Oden, sophomore guard Karissa McLaughlin, sophomore guard Tamara Farquhar, freshman guard Kayana Traylor, junior forward Ae'Rianna Harris

South Carolina key stats: Even who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, is currently leading the Gamecocks with 14 points per game.

Purdue key stats: Purdue ranks 22nd in the nation and tied for second in the Big Ten in blocked shots per game, led by junior forward Ae'Rianna Harris, who ranks 10th individually in the NCAA with 2.8 blocks per game. ... Harris also averages 3.5 offensive rebounds per game, helping the Boilermakers to a 41.4 percent offensive rebounding rate, which ranks 20th nationally, fourth in the Big Ten. ... Purdue records assists on 64.5 percent of its made field goals, good for 39th nationally. All but one of the team's 12 players have at least one assist on the season. Six average more than one per game.

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(c)2018 The State (Columbia, S.C.)

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