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Feb. 26, 2009

Box Score

STARKVILLE, Miss. – Cold shooting in the second half dealt South Carolina a 58-41 loss at Mississippi State tonight as the Gamecocks fell to 10-16 on the season. After trailing by just one point at the half, the Gamecocks took a brief lead early in the second period but could not sustain their defensive pressure and saw the Lady Bulldogs (20-8, 7-6 SEC) surge ahead midway through the half. Freshmen Lakeisha Sutton and Tonia Williams netted double-figure points to lead the offense in its lowest-scoring output of the season.

Defense was the key in the first half as both teams clamped down to force lengthy scoreless stretches and neither team could take control of the contest. The Gamecocks were the first to get the offense going with dribble penetration as Lauren Falohun and Sutton went back-to-back to carve out an 8-4 lead seven minutes into the half. The Lady Bulldogs evened things up with a pair of inside buckets before relying on the outside shot for the rest of the half. Carolina’s defense held them to just 2-of-11 shooting from outside the 3-point line. But, with the teams trading the sparse baskets, Mississippi State took a 20-19 lead into the break. The Gamecocks ended the half scoring 16 of their 19 points in the paint and out-rebounding the Lady Bulldogs 19-17.

The Gamecocks took the lead out of the locker room on Sutton’s driving layup and a free throw from Samone Kennedy to go ahead 22-20 less than a minute into the period. The deficit sparked the Lady Bulldogs, however, and they went aggressively to the basket and clamped down on defense. Alexis Rack swiped a steal and hit her first bucket of the game to knot the game. Another Rack layup off a hard cut in the lane put the Bulldogs back on top with 16:32 left to play

The teams traded blows over the next four minutes with Sutton’s mid-range jumper off the window pulled the Gamecocks within one at 28-29. From there, the Lady Bulldogs rattled off a 7-0 run, beginning with a baseline jumper from Robin Porter. Chanel Mokango hit a short jumper and finished the three-point play with a free throw, while Rack capped the surge, which was added by Gamecock turnovers and difficulty on the offensive glass, with a driving layup for a 36-28 lead with 10 minutes left to play.

Williams stopped the spurt with a long jumper from the left baseline, but another Lady Bulldog spurt was just around the corner, keyed again by solid work on the glass. Mary Kathryn Govero stuck back a missed shot and Rack netted a layup off a quick drive up the floor after a defensive rebound. With the lead at 44-32 with 5:45 left in the game, Mississippi State did not look back.

Sutton led all scorers with 14 points, while Williams netted 10 on 4-of-5 shooting. Senior C.J. Pace was the Gamecocks’ leading rebounder with seven, and Falohun handed out a team-high four assists. Carolina shot just 32.0 percent in the second half to Mississippi State’s 50 percent.

South Carolina plays its final regular-season game on Sun., Mar. 1, against Kentucky. Senior Day festivities at Colonial Life Arena are set for 2:50 p.m. with tipoff slated for 3 p.m. The Gamecocks will honor their three seniors – Demetress Adams, Brionna Dickerson and C.J. Pace.