Dec 20, 2002
By PETE IACOBELLI
AP Sports Writer
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (AP) – It took a red-hot shooting performance by No. 13 North Carolina (55.6% FG percentage) and the worst shooting night by USC all season (33.8%) for the Tar Heels to end to South Carolina’s best start in 14 seasons (8-0) with a 78-69 victory Friday night in the Myrtle Beach ACC-SEC Beach Ball Classic.
South Carolina (8-1) fell behind in the first half as three of the five starters were saddled with three personal fouls each. USC managed to connect on only nine-of-35 FG attempts (25.7%) in the first half and were one-of-11 from behind the three-point arc (9.1%) in the team’s worst shooting performance all year. But the Gamecocks fought back in the second half as Tonisha Reese hit a long 3-pointer with 55.2 seconds left to cut the lead to 75-69, but the Tar Heels did enough to take the victory.
After falling into foul trouble in the first half, South Carolina lost four of five starters to early exits in the second half. Playing with a total of nine players, South Carolina lost sophomore Vania Redd in the second half to a knee injury and with Ujhelyi’s fifth foul with 27 seconds left to play, South Carolina was forced to finish the game with only four players against North Carolina’s five players on the court. Even playing short-handed, USC did not allow North Carolina to score a basket in the last half minute.
Jocelyn Penn had 29 points for South Carolina while Petra Ujhelyi added 14 points and 11 rebounds, her fifth double-double performance of the season. North Carolina was led by Nikita Bell and Candace Sutton who both contributed 15 points apiece.
“I thought that we had a much better effort in the second half after a passive defensive performance in the first half,” said USC head coach Susan Walvius. “We didn’t get any transition baskets in the first half and we rely on transition to get into the game. I’m proud of the way our team fought back in the second half. We had better execution of our sets and started getting our shots. I’ve told the team that we’re not going to win every game. North Carolina is a talented team but we had our chances. It comes down to defense and rebounds and we didn’t get it done tonight. I don’t think that I’ve ever been involved with a game where my team finishes with four players on the court.”