Jan. 11, 2004
Two free throws by Alabama’s Lauren Hill with only three seconds left to play gave Alabama a 74-71 victory over South Carolina in the Coleman Coliseum Sunday afternoon. Senior Cristina Ciocan had a running half-court shot bounce off the rim in a last-second attempt to tie the game. After trailing by as many as 14 in the first half, the Crimson Tide sank 60.7% of their second-half baskets to get back into the contest.
South Carolina kicked off its first SEC game of the season quickly taking a 19-5 advantage with 11 points in five minutes from Lauren Simms. Alabama responded with their own rally to take a 23-22 lead with four minutes left until halftime. The Tide built a seven-point lead before the break but the Gamecocks rallied with three three-point baskets with its final three possessions to force a 31-31 tie at intermission. Despite a USC height advantage, Alabama outrebounded the Gamecocks 23-14 in the first half.
Three baskets by Iva Sliskovic in the first seven minutes of the second half helped the Gamecocks build a seven-point lead in the contest, 47-40. Alabama fought back with a 13-6 rally and took a 53-52 lead with 8:41 left to play. Five quick points by Kelly Morrone helped push USC back into the lead but the Gamecocks would not enjoy the 63-56 lead for long. In the five minutes, the Crimson Tide outscored USC by a 14-6 margin to grab a 70-69 lead with 46 seconds left to play. Two clutch free throws by Olga Gritsaeva gave the Gamecocks a 71-70 advantage with 34 seconds on the clock. Alabama freshman Kate Mastin hit a clutch two-pointer to give Alabama 72-71 lead with 25 seconds left. The Gamecocks would not score again and had to foul Lauren Hill in an attempt for a last-second shot. Hill connected on both free throws with three seconds left on the clock and Ciocan’s half-court heave bounced off the rim twice before falling to the ground.
“You know that you are going to battle in every SEC game,” said USC head coach Susan Walvius. “The game came down to critical game situations. Alabama attacked the rim and we turned it over twice. The game came down to executing and not turning the ball over. Alabama played well today.
“It hurt us to have Iva Sliskovic foul out in the second half. She’s a big look for us offensively. We worked the ball around but our shots didn’t go down. They attacked the rim and finished the game.”
Four Gamecocks scored in double figures with seniors Cristina Ciocan and Kelly Morrone each contributing 17 points. Freshman Lauren Simms recorded 11 while sophomore Olga Gritsaeva contributed 10 points. Freshman Iva Sliskovic led both teams in rebounding with nine boards before fouling out in the second half. Alabama also had four players in double figures with Katie Sipe and Monique Bivins each contributing 16 points.
USC returns home Thursday for a 7:00 p.m. contest against Tennessee. Fans can purchase tickets for $1 from the South Carolina Ticket Office or at the Colonial Center Box Office.