Dec. 6, 2003
The South Carolina Gamecocks defeated New Mexico Saturday night, 69-52, in the championship game of the 10th annual Southwest Airlines Lobo Shootout. Sarah Burgess and Iva Sliskovic were named to the All-Tournament Team while Gamecock point guard Cristina Ciocan was chosen as the Tournament MVP. Over the two days, Ciocan averaged 15.5 points, passed 18 assists against only eight turnovers, grabbed two boards, blocked two shots and made three steals.
Burgess and Ciocan paced the USC scoring effort as the duo recorded 19 and 18 points, respectively. Leading rebounder Olga Gritsaeva pulled in 10 boards in the victory. For the first time this season, Ciocan was held to single-figures in assists as the senior registered five on Saturday night.
With the pre-game emphasis placed on starting the game quickly, South Carolina (6-1) raced out to an early lead to take the 10, 135 boisterous New Mexico fans out of the game. The Gamecocks used pressure defense to force Lobo turnover and capitalized with eight points from Burgess and six quick points from Ciocan to take a 10-point lead at 22-12. After taking a time-out, New Mexico (5-2) got back into the game with the assistance of two three-pointers by Mandi Moore. A three-point field goal by freshman Lauren Simms put USC in the lead by two, 27-25, with 2:30 in the first half. New Mexico found Mandi Moore behind the arc in the last minute and the junior drained her third three-pointer of the half to give UNM a 28-27 lead at halftime.
In the second half, the two teams kept it close for the first eight games as the game withstood three ties and three lead swings. Up by two at the 16:00 minute media timeout, South Carolina mounted a 6-2 run before the next media timeout at the 12-minute mark to give the Gamecocks a five-point 42-37 lead and a little breathing room. South Carolina maintained the defensive intensity and outscored the Lobos 27-15 in the final 10 minutes for the win.
South Carolina committed a season-low 10 turnovers and forced New Mexico into 17 miscues. The Lobos shot only 32.8% from the field while the Gamecocks connected on 41.1%. Only the USC inconsistencies at the charity stripe (17-of-32) kept the victory margin to 17 points. The win was the sixth consecutive win for South Carolina after a disappointing overtime loss at Clemson on opening night.
The Gamecock win gave head coach Susan Walvius her 200th career victory. With the Tuesday night victory at Stetson, Walvius recorded her 100th win at the South Carolina helm.
“This was our best defensive effort all season,” said Walvius. “We did a great job of taking New Mexico out of their game plan with our defense. The Lobos are a great team right now and I think they’ll make the NCAA Tournament again this year.
“This was a big win here in this very hostile environment and a win that will build confidence for our young team. Cristina Ciocan did a great job of directing traffic from the point guard spot. She played like an All-American today.”
South Carolina will take a few days off next week for exams before traveling to Charlotte, North Carolina, for a Sunday, December 14th contest against