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Dec. 21, 2008

Box Score | Quotes

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – With season-high shooting, including eight 3-pointers, and a diversified offense, South Carolina women’s basketball scrapped through to a 78-76 win over Charlotte (8-3) this afternoon at Colonial Life Arena. Sophomore point guard Samone Kennedy had a career day, including 4-of-4 shooting from 3-point range, to lead the Gamecocks (6-4) with 23 points, while senior Demetress Adams battled outstanding post play for the second-straight game to fall just one rebound shy of a double-double with a season-high 19 points and nine rebounds.

“This was a game of runs,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. “They took our big hits, and we took theirs. Our [players] were tired, dog tired [after Friday’s game against Stanford], but they fought through. A month a go, we don’t win this type of game. Two weeks ago, we don’t win this type of game. It was a great team effort, probably our best of the season. The type of win that it was with the elements that were around it – losing big to Stanford and going into Christmas break – to be able to focus like this was really incredible. I am encouraged by the progression that is taking place on the team.”

In the game of runs, the lead changed 10 times, all in the first half. The game was back and forth early in the first half with the sixth lead of the period coming on Lauren Falohun’s long jump shot for a 23-23 game with 8:11 left in the half. Charlotte put together the first significant spurt of the day with an 8-0 run kicked off by a pair of free throws from Traci Ray. Over the next two minutes, three different 49ers hit buckets to stake the largest lead by either team at 31-23 with 6:14 until halftime. Carolina answered with a long jumper from C.J. Pace and a layup from Adams on the right block to cut the lead in half. Charlotte’s Erin Floyd briefly stopped the Gamecocks’ momentum with a short jumper with just over five minutes remaining.

South Carolina controlled its defensive boards and continued to convert on offense as Kennedy sparked a 6-0 run with her first career 3-pointer and a driving layup. Pace’s free throw knotted the game at 33-33. Following Shannon McCallum’s short jumper in the lane, Pace buried a 3-pointer from the left side to put the Gamecocks back on top 36-35. Danielle Burgin’s layup briefly returned the lead to Charlotte, but Brionna Dickerson hit a pair of free throws to send the Gamecocks into the locker room with a 38-37 advantage.

Kennedy wasted little time expanding the lead in the second half, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to open a 16-4 surge for the Gamecocks. Adams added a driving layup, and Kennedy and Pace each sank a 3-pointer during the run, which gave Carolina a 54-41 lead with 14:52 left in the game.

The Gamecocks’ lead hovered around double digits for the next few minutes and was as large as 12 points after Pace hit a pair of free throws with 10:22 on the clock for a 60-48 margin. Floyd ignited a surge for Charlotte, though, hitting a jumper on the left block, and Aysha Jones cut the lead to seven with a 3-pointer. Ashley Spriggs made it a four-point game with a short jumper and a free throw on the next two possessions, respectively, before Dickerson stopped the surge with consecutive baskets, giving Carolina a 64-56 lead at the 6:16 mark.

With its deficit lingering in the five- to nine-point range, Charlotte had one more surge left, keyed by aggressive, full-court pressure in the game’s final minute. The Gamecocks held an eight-point lead at 74-66 with 44 seconds remaining, which Jones sliced nearly in half with a 3-pointer from the right wing. After Carolina couldn’t connect on a pair of free throws, Jabrenta Hubbard got loose for a layup to pull the 49ers within three with 20 seconds to play. As the 49ers exerted pressure, Adams stepped up, hitting a pair of free throws, which Danielle Burgin answered with a putback on the other end, holding the margin at three points with seven seconds left. Staley used a time out to help her team beat the 49ers pressure, which Pace did with a nearly full-court pass to Kennedy streaking up the right side, who finished with a layup with five seconds remaining. Ray managed a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it was not enough for the win.

The Gamecocks had a season-best offensive game with 78 points on 46.9 percent shooting, including 66.7 percent (8-of-12) from 3-point range. Kennedy’s 23 points led all scorers, while Adams, Pace and Dickerson joined her in double figures with 19, 16 and 11 points, respectively.

South Carolina takes a break for the holiday before returning to the court to host No. 1 Connecticut on Sun., Dec. 28. The game will tip off at 3 p.m. and be televised live on SportSouth.