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Feb. 14, 2006

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – Renaldo Balkman scored a career-high 28 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to lift South Carolina past Alabama 67-56 on Tuesday.

Balkman was virtually unstoppable in leading the Gamecocks (14-10, 5-6) to their third consecutive victory. He grabbed rebounds on both ends of the court, and his defense and hustle lead to some easy baskets for South Carolina.

Tre Kelley, who had been averaging nearly 20 points in his past two games, was shutout in the opening period, going 0-for-5 from the floor. But his first points with 14:44 left in the second half ignited a 12-1 run and the Gamecocks kept Alabama (14-9, 7-4) at bay the rest of the way.

Kelley hit two 3s during the run and his steal and assist to Rocky Trice for an easy layup brought the crowd to its feet, putting the Gamecocks ahead 45-32 with 12:01 remaining. Kelley finished with 12 points.

Ronald Steele led the Crimson Tide with 13 points, but most of them came from the line in the final few minutes. Jermareo Davidson and Jean Felix added 12 apiece.

Alabama, which had won three straight and seven of their last nine, got as close as nine late in the game, but South Carolina held off any potential rally.

Every time it seemed like the Tide were going to make a run, Balkman and the rest of the Gamecocks stepped up.

The junior had a sensational first half, including 11 rebounds, nine points and three steals. And he picked up right where he left off in the second half with five quick points, including his second 3 of the night.

His aggressiveness on the offensive glass during one South Carolina possession in the opening half garnered him two rebounds before hitting an easy bucket.

Later in the second half, he grabbed an offensive board while falling out of bounds and called a time-out, allowing South Carolina to kill more time off the clock.