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March 1, 2007

Box Score | Quotes | Notes

Duluth, Ga. (Gwinnett Center) – The South Carolina women’s basketball team overcame an 11-point second-half deficit to defeat Auburn, 65-63, in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga. The victory was the first for South Carolina at the SEC Tournament since a 79-64 victory against Ole Miss in 2003.

The win improves the Gamecocks to 17-13 overall and 7-8 in games played against teams from the Southeastern Conference. Auburn drops to 19-12 overall and 6-9 against SEC opponents.

Auburn’s First Team All-SEC performer DeWanna Bonner led all scorers with 21 points, but it was a trio of Gamecocks seniors and a redshirt-junior that turned the game in Carolina’s favor. Stacy Booker scored 14 points, Lauren Simms added 11 points and Melanie Johnson had her fourth double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Gamecocks. Lakesha Tolliver scored 12 points for South Carolina and junior Ilona Burgrova added four blocks with seven points, including the game-winning field goal, to pace the Gamecocks.

Thursday’s opening round game saw nine ties and 14 lead changes with the largest lead a 48-37 Auburn advantage in the second half. Despite committing 21 turnovers and shooting 50 percent from the free throw line (8-for-16), the Gamecocks were able to come back for the victory after outrebounding the Tigers 42-31 and shooting 53 percent in the second half.

The first half was back-and-forth throughout, featuring five ties, five lead changes and no lead larger than four points by either team. Auburn took an early 8-4 lead before the Gamecocks went on an 8-0 run to take a four-point lead, 12-8. The Tigers responded as both teams continued to trade baskets in a turnover filled half, with Carolina committing 11 turnovers and Auburn giving the ball away eight times. With Auburn leading by two points, South Carolina’s Brionna Dickerson hit a jump shot with 25 seconds remaining in the half to even the score 27-27 heading into the break.

Both teams combined to shoot 18-for-58 (31 percent) in the opening stanza, but South Carolina held a significant advantage on the boards with a 28-16 rebounding edge.

With the score tied 33-33 with 17:13 remaining in the second half, Auburn rushed to a 14-4 run over the next six minutes and 11 seconds to take the largest lead of the game, 48-37. However, the Gamecocks limited the Tigers to only one field goal over the next five minutes and tied the game, 54-54, on a jumper by Johnson with 6:03 remaining. Auburn again increased its lead to five points, but a three-pointer by Booker and layup by Tolliver tied the game, followed by a free throw by Burgrova to put the Gamecocks on top 62-61.

Auburn’s Keke Carrier hit two free throws with 32 seconds remaining to take a 63-62 lead, but a layup by Burgrova on the other end with 20 seconds remaining gave the Gamecocks the lead for good. Auburn had a final shot at taking the game but Bonner’s layup with 3.6 seconds remaining missed over Booker, and Simms drained a free throw for the 65-63 victory.

The Gamecocks return to action Friday at 1 p.m. to take on No. 1 seed Tennessee in the second round of the SEC Tournament. The Lady Vols went undefeated in conference play (14-0) during the regular season and carry a 27-2 overall record into postseason play. South Carolina and Tennessee have met once in the SEC Tournament when the Lady Vols defeated the Gamecocks 78-45 on Feb. 28, 1997.