Jan. 9, 2003
Columbia, S.C. – Thirteenth-ranked South Carolina (13-1, 1-0) had 23 assists in the game against 14th-ranked Mississippi State (11-3, 0-1), but none were more important than freshman Sarah Burgess’ fast break assist to Koretha Johnson with 53 seconds left to give Carolina the lead 80-79. The lay-up gave the Gamecocks the lead for good.
The Gamecock defense was lackluster in the first half, allowing MSU to shoot 59% from the floor, including 60% from the 3-point line. USC was down 16 points with two minutes left in the first half. They went into the locker room down 14 and battled back in the second half to finally tie the game and go ahead on a pair of Petra Ujhelyi free throws with just over a minute left to play. After MSU’s LaToya Thomas made one of two free throws to retie the game, the Burgess-to-Johnson connection gave Carolina the lead for the remainder of the game. The Gamecocks had to stop the Bulldogs twice before they could call the game a victory and the crowd could rush the floor.
Five Carolina players scored in double figures, contributing to the balanced scoring effort. Jocelyn Penn led the team with 24 points. Ujhelyi added 15 points and 11 rebounds; Ciocan also had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Senior Kelly Morrone led the defense with four steals and also added 11 points and Johnson had 14 points.
Head Coach Susan Walvius said, “The fans definitely made a difference tonight. We sounded like we had 15,000 fans out there. They were a big factor. This is a great win. MSU is one of the best teams in the country with two of the best players in the country. We were able to regain our focus tonight and stop them on the defensive end and get some baskets on the offensive end. We have a lot of areas left to improve on, but we found a way to win tonight and that was great.”
The Gamecocks have now won three straight Southeastern Conference openers. They will next be in action at Arkansas Sunday, January 12th. Tip-off is scheduled for 3:00 p.m.