Nov. 16, 2009
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – South Carolina needed overtime to overcome a difficult first half before battling out a 70-66 win at Charlotte to open the 2009-10 season. Trailing by 11 at halftime, the Gamecocks opened the second period by relentlessly going inside to freshman Kelsey Bone, who ended her first collegiate contest with her first career double-double, recording 22 points and 11 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass. Junior Valerie Nainima also netted 22 points, while sophomore Charenee Stephens battled underneath for an inspired 12 rebounds, which tied her career high.
After a first half that saw both teams run hot and cold with the Gamecocks hampered by turnovers and the 49ers struggling with 32.1 percent shooting, South Carolina took the second half by storm. The guards fed the ball tirelessly into Bone on the block, and the 6-foot-5 freshman found her range, single-handedly outscoring Charlotte 9-2 in the first three minutes to bring the Gamecocks back within four points at 33-29. Using every move in her repertoire, Bone scored on a put back, a hook across the lane, backing down her defender and from the free throw line.
Re-energized, the Gamecocks were crashing the boards on the defensive end, limiting the 49ers to one shot and quickly turning defense into offense. After an Aysha Jones 3-pointer stretched the 49er lead back to seven, South Carolina took the lead with an 8-0 run keyed on the glass. Stephens opened the run with a pair of free throws, and the next six points came on the break, capped by La’Keisha Sutton’s layup to give South Carolina a 37-36 lead with 13:50 left to play.
The Gamecock lead grew as high as six on Stephens’ layup with 4:46 on the clock. A series of drives to the basket, capped by Jones knotted the game at 55-55 with 3:07 to go. Nainima wrested control of the Gamecock offense, hitting an acrobatic shot at the end of the shot clock to put Carolina back up, and she made it a four-point lead with under a minute left after Stephens took a charge on the other end of the floor. The 49ers’ Shannon McCallum similarly stepped up for her team, drilling a mid-range jumper and tying the game on a driving layup. After a South Carolina turnover, the 49ers had a shot to win at the buzzer, but Ashley Spriggs’ long jumper rimmed out, sending the game into overtime.
Samone Kennedy opened the overtime with a 3-pointer and the Gamecocks never trailed in the extra period, though the final five minutes was not without its drama. Charlotte’s Erin Floyd tied things up with a free throw, but Sutton was fouled when Floyd missed the second attempt. After the Gamecocks went 0-3 from the stripe in the first half, they were solid after halftime, and Sutton buried both of hers. The 49ers missed a jumper, and Stephens was fouled pulling down the rebound. Her free throw pushed the lead back to three. A transition bucket from Jones cut the South Carolina lead to 65-64, but Bone picked up where she left off in the opening minutes of the second half, backing down her defender for a short jump shot then sticking back an offensive rebound. When McCallum put up a 3-pointer with 19 seconds left, it was Bone who snagged the rebound and hit the free throw to ice the victory.
The Gamecocks finished the night shooting 43.3 percent from the field, including 50 percent from 3-point range. South Carolina bounced back to hit 81.3 percent from the free throw line as well.
South Carolina continues its two-game road tour to open the season, traveling to archrival Clemson for a 7 p.m. contest on Thu., Nov. 19.