Nov. 19, 2009
CLEMSON, S.C. – South Carolina dropped a heartbreaking double-overtime decision at Clemson 94-92 in women’s basketball action at Littlejohn Coliseum Thursday night. The Gamecocks’ struggles at the free throw line caught up to them late in the contest, and the Tigers did just enough from the charity stripe to seal the contest in the final seconds. While freshman Kelsey Bone scored 32 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead all players in both categories, sophomore La’Keisha Sutton’s grit and battle kept the Gamecocks on the brink of victory in the second half. She finished with 22 points and six rebounds, including five on the offensive glass.
Shooting was lights out in the first half for both teams with the Tigers taking a four-point lead into the break thanks to 6-of-10 accuracy from 3-point range. The Gamecocks went to their inside game with Bone controlling the lane to the tune of 12 points in just 15 minutes on the court.
As dead-eye as the shooting was in the first 20 minutes, the second half brought cold spells to both squads. With field goal percentages falling off, the fouls started piling up for both squads and most points in the early part of the period came from the charity stripe.
The Tigers built a seven-point lead, their largest of the game, behind a 6-0 run capped by a mid-range jumper from Lele Hardy. The Gamecocks answered with a 3-pointer from Valerie Nainima coming off a screen at the top of the arc to pull within four at 49-45 with 11:40 left to play. After a driving layup from Sthefany Thomas, the Gamecocks turned up the defense to put together a 7-0 run and claim the lead.
The surge began with a Bone bucket from the left block, and Nainima did the rest. Fouled on a drive to the bucket, the junior converted the traditional three-point play. With 8:56 on the clock, the Gamecocks took a 52-51 lead on a Nainima baseline jumper after Sutton battled for a loose ball.
The teams traded the lead on the next two possessions before Clemson put together a 5-0 run behind free throws and offensive rebounding. Trailing 56-61, it was Sutton who went to work for the Gamecocks. Her driving layup cut the lead to three, and a Samone Kennedy deep 3-pointer with the shot clock expiring made it a one-point game with just over four minutes to play. After Bone swiped a steal on the Tigers’ next possession, Sutton finished with a layup to put the Gamecocks up 63-62.
Clemson’s Shaniqu Pauldo hit from the right block, but Sutton had the Gameoccks back in front with a hard drive to the basket and a free throw. Bone hit a pair of free throws for a 68-64 margin at the 2:36 mark. The Tigers stormed back with solid defense and a pair of Keyrra Gillespie drives to the bucket. Hardy put Clemson back up with a free throw to make it a 69-68 Tiger lead with 1:25 to go.
Sutton again drove hard to the basket, snagged her out rebound among the post players and stuck it back for a 70-69 Gamecock margin at the one-minute mark. The Gamecocks ratcheted up the defensive pressure yet again with Bone and Kennedy hounding Gillespie near the mid-court stripe. The Tiger guard forced a foul from Bone, hitting the first free throw to tie the game. When she missed the second, Jewel May ripped down the rebound despite being sandwiched by a pair of Tigers.
After a timeout with 25 seconds on the clock, the Gamecocks set it up for Sutton to drive the lane. The sophomore did just that then pulled up for a jumper to reclaim the lead with 13 ticks to play. Clemson drew up a play for its Naismith candidate, and Hardy delivered with a drive to the bucket with three seconds left. Sutton took a final shot from the elbow at the buzzer, but it fell short, sending the game to overtime.
The Gamecock fell behind by six points on a Gillespie bucket with the shot clock winding down. Once again, South Carolina fought back with gritty play. Bone hit from the right block and was fouled. She missed the free throw, but May again came up with the crucial rebound to set up a 3-pointer from Nainima to knife the lead back to one point with 52 seconds left. Pauldo hit a free throw to push the lead back to two at 83-81 with 24 seconds left, and Bone knotted it up with a move between defenders on an out-of-bounds play.
In the second OT, the teams traded baskets as exhaustion sapped both defenses, and it seemed the game would come down to whoever had the ball last. After Hardy put the Tigers up 91-89 with 48 seconds to go, Bone answered 12 seconds later with a bucket from the left block. The Tigers went back to Hardy, who was defended well by Sutton and missed her shot. Battling for the rebound, she was fouled and hit 1-of-2 from the stripe.
With 13 seconds to go, the Gamecocks turned to Nainima, who drove the right side of the lane and was fouled. Like Hardy, Nainima hit just 1-of-2, and the game was tied again with 7.5 seconds to go. The Tigers needed to the full length of the floor, and the Gamecock defense seemed to have them bottled up near mid-court when Pauldo unleashed a desperation 3-pointer, on which she was fouled. The sophomore hit just one of her three shots, but Hardy fought for the rebound and sealed the victory.
Bone’s 32 points were the third-highest by a Gamecock freshman in school history, and her 14 rebounds are tied for second in the freshman record book. Nainima finished the contest with 19 points. The Gamecocks shot 50 percent from the 3-point line for the second-straight game and hit 45.9 from the field overall.
South Carolina gets to play its first game in the friendly confines of Colonial Life Arena on Sun., Nov. 22. Tipoff with the Penn State Lady Lions is a 3 p.m.