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Jan. 4, 2009

Box Score

RALEIGH, N.C. – In a game that changed leads five times in the final minute, South Carolina’s Demetress Adams struck the final blow at the buzzer to give the Gamecocks (8-5) a 56-55 win over NC State Sunday afternoon at Reynolds Coliseum. The teams were tied at the half, and the Wolfpack (8-7) overcame a double-digit South Carolina lead midway through the second half to set up late-game heroics for both teams. For the second-straight game the Gamecocks’ three seniors led the offense, including C.J. Pace who recorded her first career double-double and delivered the pin-point pass that helped Adams to the winning bucket.

The teams battled back and forth in the first 20 minutes to hit the locker room tied 21-21. South Carolina stormed into the second half with a 13-2 run to take an 11-point lead just four minutes into the period. The Gamecocks built the lead on the inside game as Jewel May opened with a layup from the left block and Adams muscled through the lane for a basket. After Shayla Fields hit a pair of free throws for NC State, the Gamecocks rattled off the next nine points, sparked by Pace’s long jumper from the right baseline and 3-pointer from the right sideline. Adams followed with a bucket from the left block and a jump shot from the free-throw line extended for a 34-23 lead with 16:09 on the clock.

The teams traded baskets of the next four minutes until the Wolfpack knifed through a 10-point Gamecock lead with a 7-0 surge. Sharnise Beal hit a jump shot, and Fields scored a quick layup off a defensive rebound to get within six points. After a steal, Kristy Kenney drained a 3-pointer from the right wing to get the Wolfpack within three at 39-36 with 9:15 left to play.

The South Carolina offense battled over the next six minutes but scored just enough to hold the Wolfpack at bay until a turnover led to Bonae Holston’s free-throw line jumper that put NC State up 49-48 with 3:04 on the clock. Beal’s jumper pushed the margin to three points, the Wolfpack’s largest of the afternoon. Brionna Dickerson answered with long jumper then converted an offensive rebound on the next possession to give Carolina the lead back at 52-51 with 1:08 to go.

Nikitta Gartrell missed a jumper for NC State, and Pace secured her career-high tying 11th rebound of the game for Carolina. The Wolfpack took advantage of the low foul count to force the Gamecocks to take time off the clock. On the fourth in-bounds play, Beal swiped a steal before a foul was called, and Field converted the ensuing layup with 35 seconds left.

South Carolina freshman LaKeisha Sutton answered quickly with a driving layup to put the Gamecocks back in front 54-53 with 28 seconds to play. After a tough defensive stand for Carolina, Fields missed a jumper, but the Wolfpack got the ball back after a scramble for the rebound. On the in-bounds play, Beal ran a curl under the basket and hit the layup with just six seconds on the clock.

South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley used her final timeout to draw up her team’s final play. With Pace on the NC State baseline, the Wolfpack pressured the in-bounds pass. Pace arced a strike to Adams just across half court. The senior forward used her mobility to elude one defender on the perimeter before driving the left side of the lane and releasing the shot at the buzzer. The ball hung tantalizingly on the rim before falling through and sending the Gamecock bench charging onto the floor.

The victory was Staley’s first over an ACC team in her career and the Gamecocks’ first over the Wolfpack in their last six meetings. Adams led the offense with 14 points on 7-of-14 shooting, while Pace grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds to go with her 10 points. Dickerson rounded out the double-digit scorers for Carolina with 10 points on 5-of-10 shooting. After hitting just 29 percent from the field in the first half, the Gamecocks converted 59.3 percent of their attempts in the second period.

After closing its non-conference schedule on a high noted, South Carolina opens SEC play at Colonial Life Arena on Thu., Jan. 8, against No. 9/10 Auburn at 7 p.m.