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Feb. 5, 2009

Box Score

LEXINGTON, Ky. – South Carolina got a game-high 15 points from freshman Lakeisha Sutton but could not overcome a cold-shooting first half in a 61-47 loss at Kentucky tonight. The Gamecocks (9-12, 1-7 SEC) managed just 15 points in the first half, rebounding in the second half to out-score the Wildcats by one. It was simply not enough to overcome a 15-point halftime deficit.

The Gamecocks let the icy weather outside infiltrate their shooting in the first half, making just four field goals in the first 20 minutes of play. The lack of points was not for lack of good looks at the basket as Carolina shot just 14.3 percent (4-of-28) in the period. Meanwhile, Kentucky was shooting just 38.2 percent but capitalizing on 12 offensive rebounds to put together sustained surges throughout the half.

The first Wildcat spurt was an 8-0 run with just more than four minutes gone in the game. Victoria Dunlap opened the surge with a pair of free throws. Eleia Roddy added the next four points, and Amani Franklin capped it with a driving layup for a 14-4 Wildcat lead. Miranda Tate hit a 3-pointer from the left sideline to cut the lead to seven, but the Gamecocks would get no closer and trailed 15-30 at the break.

The Gamecocks’ shooting improved early in the second half, but the Wildcats continued to pull away. After an 11-0 run midway through the half, Kentucky had a 24-point lead at 51-27 with 10:16 left on the clock. Carolina guards Samone Kennedy and Lakeisha Sutton went to the drive to stop the spurt with back-to-back buckets to cut the lead to 20. After a free throw from Roddy at the 8:37 mark, the Gamecocks went to their most aggressive, trapping defense to unsettle the Wildcats.

The clamp down worked, forcing a spate of Kentucky turnovers, which the Gamecocks turned into nine straight points behind Sutton and C.J. Pace. The duo opened the spurt with three free throws then went back-to-back on 3-pointers from the right baseline to pull within 12 at 52-40 at the 5:18 mark.

Sutton fouled out moments later, leaving the Gamecocks with one less long-range threat, but they were undeterred. Carly Ormerod hit a pair of free throws, but again Carolina hit consecutive 3s – Kennedy and Pace – and had the lead down to eight with 4:14 left on the clock.

As the Gamecocks tried to extend the game, Kentucky responded by stepping up its defensive pressure and converting at the free throw line to preserve the win.

Carolina more than doubled its offensive output in the second half and out-scored the Wildcats by one in the final 20 minutes of action. The Gamecocks shot 62.5 percent from 3-point range in the period, but finished the game hitting just 23.6 percent from the floor. Jewel May led the team on the boards with eight, but Kentucky out-rebounded Carolina 49-29 with 16 offensive rebounds to its credit.

South Carolina returns to Colonial Life Arena for a 3 p.m. tipoff against Ole Miss on Sun., Feb. 8. It is WBCA Pink Zone day at the arena as the Gamecocks raise funds for breast cancer awareness.