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Feb. 22, 2009

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A barrage of second-half 3-pointers dealt South Carolina an 82-66 loss at No. 15/15 Florida this afternoon at the O’Connell Center. The Gamecocks (10-15, 2-10 SEC) shot 53.1 percent in the second half, but could not match the Gators’ 7-of-11 shooting from 3-point range over the final 20 minutes. Four Gamecocks scored in double figures with freshman Lakeisha Sutton leading the way with 17, while Courtney Newton tied for team-high honors with a career-high seven rebounds and four steals.

A late rally in the first half sent the Gamecocks into the locker room trailing just 30-26 after Carolina had fallen behind by as many as 14 midway through the period. Following a 12-2 Florida run that saw the Gators push the lead to 28-14 with 5:33, the Gamecocks put together their own 12-2 spurt to close the half, crashing the boards hitting free throws. Sutton kicked off the surge with a driving layup and free throw as the Gamecocks broke Florida’s full-court pressure. Lauren Falohun hit a pair of free throws, and Charenee Stephens stuck back an offensive rebound to cut the deficit to 21-28 with 3:51 left in the half. Ndidi Madu hit a bucket for Florida at 3:26, but it was the last basket the Gators would score as C.J. Pace and Falohun combined for five points, largely at the free-throw line to end the half.

The teams traded baskets through the eight-minute mark of the second half, although the Gators extended their lead to six points with six 3-pointers to just three for the Gamecocks during the stretch. After Newton hit a mid-range jumper for a 50-56 South Carolina deficit, the Gators opened a 7-0 run with a traditional three-point play from Sharielle Smith, who kept it going with a jumper just beyond the free-throw line. Marshae Dotson capped it with a move on the right block for a 63-50 lead with 6:20 left to play. Carolina answered with a driving layup from Sutton and a pair of free throws from Stephens, but nine points was as close as the Gamecocks would get despite a scrappy defensive effort.

Sutton was joined in double figures by Stephens and Pace, who netted 11 each, and Falohun, who finished with 10. Pace matched Newton with seven rebounds to lead the team, while Kennedy handed out a team-high five assists.

The Gamecocks will play their last regular-season road game on Thu., Feb. 26, at Mississippi State. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. (ET).