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Nov. 27, 2009

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ST. THOMAS, U.S.V.I. – South Carolina women’s basketball surged late in the first half but could not overcome the offensive firepower of No. 5/6 Notre Dame in its second game at the Paradise Jam Friday afternoon at the University of the Virgin Islands Sports and Fitness Center. The Gamecocks narrowed their deficit to seven at halftime, but the Fighting Irish burst out of the locker room at halftime and never looked back.

South Carolina found the scoreboard more quickly against the Irish than it did against the Oklahoma Sooners on Thursday, but still found themselves down by double digits five minutes into the contest. The Notre Dame lead rose to 17, 40-23, with four minutes left in the half when the Gamecocks truly came to life.

The defense applied frenetic pressure and the rebounding picked up for South Carolina on one end of the floor, and the offense capitalized on a foul-prone Notre Dame defense on the other end. Eight straight successful trips to the free throw line were part of an 8-2 run that cut the Gamecocks’ deficit to 11 with just over a minute left. Courtney Newton netted her first points of the season with a 3-pointer from the baseline in transition to bring the Gamecocks inside double digits at 42-34 with 52 ticks left in the half. Notre Dame’s Skylar Diggins swiped a steal and hit a jumper, which Samone Kennedy answered with a baseline 3-pointer for a 44-37 differential going into the break.

The Fighting Irish opened the second half with a free throw, and Kelsey Bone brought South Carolina within six on a putback. Consecutive turnovers and aggressive Notre Dame rebounding allowed the Fighting Irish to quickly push their lead back to 18 points before the first media timeout, and the Gamecocks could not overcome the deficit.

While both teams cooled off from the field in the second half, the drop was precipitous for the Gamecocks, hitting just 19.2 percent after scoring 45.8 percent from the field in the first period. Hitting 4-of-5 from 3-point range in the first half, South Carolina did not net any of its six long-range attempts in the second half. The Fighting Irish dominated the paint, outscoring the Gamecocks 34-16 on the interior while netting 17 second-chance points.

Valerie Nainima led the team with 15 points, while Bone and Ashley Bruner tied for team-high honors on the glass with eight boards apiece.

South Carolina wraps up its time at the Paradise Jam with a 3 p.m. (ET) tipoff against No. 23/- San Diego State on Sat., Nov. 28.