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Jan. 11, 2009

Box Score

ATHENS, Ga. – South Carolina suffered a nail-biting 69-63 defeat at Georgia Sunday afternoon after knotting the game 63-63 with 1:33 left to play. The Gamecocks (8-7, 0-2 SEC) fought back from a six-point deficit in the final five minutes to tie the game twice before the Lady Bulldogs (10-6, 1-1 SEC) were perfect in four trips to the free-throw line to seal their victory. Senior Brionna Dickerson led the team with a season-high 19 points, including three 3-pointers, while freshman Lakeisha Sutton did damage down the stretch to finish with 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting.

The first half was a see-saw battle of mini runs. Georgia generated the first significant lead of the game, pushing past a 10-7 Gamecock lead with a 7-0 run kicked off by Meredith Mitchell’s driving layup. Mitchell and Ashley Houts each hit one of two free throws to give the Lady Bulldogs their first lead of the game at 11-10 with 10:32 left in the period. Jaleesa Rhoden made it a four-point margin with a 3-pointer from the left baseline. South Carolina answered with an 8-0 surge as Dickerson answered Rhoden’s 3-pointer with one of her own from the top of the key. Lakeisha Sutton hit a bucket in transition and, after Dickerson hit 1-of-2 free throws, the freshman added another driving layup for an 18-14 Carolina lead.

After Dickerson’s second 3-pointer for the afternoon made it a 21-16 Carolina lead, Georgia capitalized on aggressive defense to put together an 11-0 run for a 27-21 lead with 2:26 left in the half. The spurt opened with a long jumper from the right side from Porsha Phillips, who netted seven of the 11 points in the rally, and ended with a layup from the right block by Christy Marshall.

Trailing by five at the break, the Gamecocks got on the board first in the second half with Dickerson’s long jumper to cut the Georgia lead to 32-29, but the Lady Bulldogs stretched it to a 10-point margin with a 7-0 run, including a 3-pointer from Angela Puleo and a Danielle Taylor layup off an in-bounds play.

The Gamecocks trailed by nine at 37-46 at the 12:14 mark when Dickerson swiped a steal and hit a layup to spark a 7-0 run. After Dickerson missed the second of her two free throws on the next possession, Charenee Stephens helped her out with a putback to cut the lead to four. Sutton swiped a steal and hit the layup to make it a two-point game with 10:03 on the clock. The Bulldgos pushed the lead back to four on the next two possessions and led by six at 54-48 with 5:04 left to play. The Gamecocks cut it to one on a rare five-point play as Demetress Adams was fouled as Dickerson sank a 3-pointer from the left wing. Adams hit both free throws for a 54-53 Georgia lead with 4:43 on the clock. The teams traded points on the next possessions, and Sutton knotted the game at 60-60 with a put back off Samone Kennedy’s steal and missed layup. The game came down to the final 2:34.

Robinson put the Lady Bulldogs on top with a traditional three-point play, which Sutton answered with a 3-pointer from the left baseline with 1:25 to go. Houts gave Georgia a 65-63 lead with a hard drive on the baseline at the 1:10 mark. After coming up empty on their next possession, the Gamecocks stretched their defense, forcing the Lady Bulldogs to use their final time out just after crossing half court. With little time on the shot clock, Houts drove through the aggressive Carolina defense to force up a shot, during which a foul was called. She hit both free throws with 24 seconds on the clock, and added two more in the final 10 seconds to seal the game.

The Gamecocks hit 45.3 percent from the field but saw Georgia score at a 50 percent clip. May led the Gamecocks on the glass with eight boards, including four on the offensive end. Dickerson’s 19 points were a game hit as Robinson and Phillips led the way for Georgia with 14 apiece.

South Carolina returns to Colonial Life Arena on Thu., Jan. 15, against No. 18/19 Florida.