Scores

Final

(12) E Michigan 48

(23-9, 13-3 MAC)

(5) South Carolina 80

(24-9, 10-6 SEC)

    Coverage: ESPN2/WatchESPN

    11:05 AM ET, March 17, 2012

    Mackey Arena, West Lafayette, Indiana

    1 2 T
    #12EMU 23 2548
    #5SC 39 4180

    Top Performers

    Eastern Michigan: P. Redditt 14 Pts, 5 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Blk

    South Carolina: M. Grant 12 Pts, 1 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Stl

    E. Michigan-South Carolina Preview

    For South Carolina coaches Dawn Staley and Nikki McCray, this NCAA tournament is like starting over.

    Their players don't want to hear any war stories about old tourney appearances or Final Four runs, and they aren't inclined to pull out the YouTube clips to sneak a peek at how the two star players performed back in their glory days.

    They're too hip to look back, and besides, Staley wants the Gamecocks worrying about the things they can accomplish in their first tourney appearance since 2003.

    "It's been over 20 years, so I think our players are more tangible in the here and now," Staley said Friday. "I want them to experience it for themselves."

    Women's basketball historians will view Saturday's game against 12th-seeded Eastern Michigan as a rare treat -- the reunion of two of basketball's greatest stars on a national stage.

    After spending most of their college and pro careers chasing elusive championships and mirroring one another's accomplishments, Staley and McCray finally figured out they worked better as a team.

    When the two were Olympians at the Atlanta and Sydney Olympics they won the gold medal -- both times. Staley went on to win a third gold in 2004 at Athens, the same Olympiad that she carried the American flag for the opening ceremonies.

    So when Staley took the Gamecocks' head coaching job in 2008, she immediately asked McCray to join the staff, and nothing's been the same in Columbia since then.

    South Carolina (23-9) is two wins short of matching the school's single-season victory record. It tied the school mark for most SEC victories in a season (10), reached the SEC tourney finals for the first time and became the fourth team in school history to earn an NCAA bid after making the WNIT last season.

    Not surprisingly, the players credit the coaches with turning around the attitude and the program.

    "To see where we started out at my freshman year, in particular, the belief that the coaches had in us and the belief my teammates had in me and the belief that we had in each other, we finally got to where we wanted to be since Day 1," senior La'Keisha Sutton said. "I'm just trying to focus on getting a win."

    It sure hasn't been an easy path to get here, and the road to the regional semifinals will only prove to be more difficult.

    First, South Carolina faces Mid-American Conference champion Eastern Michigan (23-8), which has the nation's No. 2 scorer in Tavelyn James (24.2 points).

    Eastern Michigan has been to the NCAA tournament only once before, in 2004, and Eagles coach AnnMarie Gilbert doesn't expect her team to be intimidated by the presence of Staley or McCray.

    "The great thing for us is ignorance is bliss to young people who aren't old enough to know any of us who were," Gilbert said, drawing laughter. "They didn't know Cynthia Cooper. It was only after (last year's) game that I shared her history. But they all got her autograph and picture after the game. I think they'll be doing with Dawn, and I hope the outcome is the same."

    What they should know is that Staley finished her college career at Virginia with a school record 2,135 points, a national record 454 steals and an ACC record of 729 assists, reached three Final Fours and was the basketball role model for reigning WNBA MVP Tamika Catchings.

    McCray scored more than 1,500 points for Tennessee and was twice named the SEC's player of the year.

    Neither won a national championship or a WNBA title. Yet their influence on college basketball is unforgettable. Gilbert described the Gamecocks as fierce and fearless "like their coach," and McCray's behind-the-scene view is pretty much the same as it was in her playing days.

    "She's intense because she's a perfectionist," McCray said. "She works extremely hard to give us her best effort, and she challenges us in a lot of ways. She puts us (assistants) in situations that I think will lead to head coaching jobs. She gives us a chance to talk to our team and prepare our team. But make no mistake. She runs this team."

    SPONSORED HEADLINES

    Gameday Matchup

     
    EMU
    SC
    W-L23-823-9
    Avg Points69.460.3
    Avg Points Allowed57.150.5
    Home Record11-112-3
    Road Record9-78-5
    Current StreakW2L1

    School Info

     
    EMU
    SC
    Conference Mid-American - West SEC
    Nickname Eagles Gamecocks
    Type Public Public

    Series

    DATEGAMELINKS
    » Mar 17, 2012 @SC 80, EMU 48Recap | Box Score

    Starting Lineup

    EMU (PPG)
    SC (PPG)
    NA  P. Redditt 14.0 NA  L. Sutton 12.0
    NA  T. James 11.0 NA  C. Newton 1.0
    F  O. Fouty 6.0 NA  C. Stephens 5.7
    G  N. Watkins 10.0 NA  I. Walker 9.0
    G  D. Thomas 1.0 NA  M. Grant 15.7

    Team Stat Leaders

     
    EMU
    SC
    PointsP. Redditt 14.0M. Grant 15.7
    ReboundsN. Watkins 12.0A. Welch 7.0
    AssistsT. James 4.0I. Walker 4.3
    StealsD. Thomas 3.0L. Sutton 2.0
    BlocksP. Redditt 2.0E. Ibiam 2.0