Jan. 22, 2004
The Florida Gators held the South Carolina scoreless over the last 2:03 of Thurday night’s SEC battle to capture the 61-56 victory in the O’Connell Center. Florida senior Vanessa Hayden recorded 28 points and 17 rebounds in 29 minutes of action while Cristina Ciocan led USC with 16 points, six rebounds, four steals and four assists. Ciocan is now three assists shy of becoming South Carolina’s career leader and should break that record Sunday afternoon at home against Kentucky. Freshman Iva Sliskovic contributed 14 points and five rebounds for the Gamecocks.
The Gators held a 33-32 halftime advantage, but both teams struggled to score after intermission, exchanging turnovers in the opening moments of the second half. Hayden started the scoring by making her presence felt down low. The Gamecocks used a combination of gritty defense and timely shooting to pull even, and then take the lead at the 14-minute mark thanks to a 7-0 run. When Hayden made yet another bucket inside, this time against three South Carolina players, Florida tied the game at 39 and then took the lead 41-39 when Morehead hit a driving lay-up off a Florida fast break. Morehead followed with a jumper to extend the lead to four until USC responded with a 5-0 run to take the lead, 44-43.
A Hayden basket put Florida on top 45-44 but once again the Gamecocks responded with some key baskets capitalized by a Sarah Burgess three from the top of the key that gave South Carolina 49-47 lead. Hayden responded with another bucket inside to close the gap to two with seven minutes remaining.
South Carolina hit another three to extend its lead to five but Florida would respond again with a bucket from Hayden inside, a Danielle Santos jumper, and steal and lay-up by Sarah Lowe to put the Gators on top, 53-52. Another Ciocan three-pointer for the Gamecocks put the visitors on top by two until Hayden answered again to tie the score at 55 with four minutes remaining. Baskets by Morehead and Hayden contributed to a 59-56 lead going into the closing moments of the game.
With pressure defense, the Gamecocks gained possession and called timeout with a little over 12 seconds on the clock to set their strategy for what would probably be their last offensive possession of the game. South Carolina passed in the ball near their bench and found Kelly Morrone for an open but deep three-pointer that found the back of the iron and fell into the waiting arms of Hayden for her 17th rebound on the night. The All-American then added two points at the charity stripe to secure the 61-56 win for Florida.
The Gators committed 23 turnovers in the game, but benefited from a commanding 43-27 rebounding advantage.
South Carolina opened the game’s scoring with a three from Cristina Ciocan. Florida responded with a 9-0 run in which Hayden dominated. The senior center camped out under the Gamecock basket as her teammates continued to find her. South Carolina responded with a 12-5 run of its own and survived a stretch that saw Hayden block two shots and draw a charging foul.
With South Carolina clinging to a 15-14 lead Mosby provided some instance offense off the bench. With Hayden on the bench the offense flowed through Mosby until Hayden returned at the 9:00 mark. South Carolina stayed in the game with some sharp shooting from behind the arc and would take their third lead of the game 20-18 at the 8:12 mark using the their shooting touch from the outside to neutralize Hayden’s shot blocking inside.
The two teams would trade leads until Mosby hit three of her nine first half points to give the Gators a 29-28 lead, a lead that Florida would not relinquish for the final four minutes of the first half. Florida headed to the locker room leading 33-32.