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Dec. 13, 2009

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Spurs Up Blog Keys to the Game

Coach Staley
Valerie Nainima and Samone Kennedy

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina junior Samone Kennedy scored the last three of her season-high 18 points with the shot clock running out and under 20 seconds to play to seal a 74-71 win over NC State in women’s basketball action at Colonial Life Arena Sunday afternoon. The Gamecocks (5-3) won the battle of the boards 45-39 and capitalized on 22 turnovers by the Wolfpack (6-4) to score their second-straight victory over NC State.

The Gamecocks were out of the gate quickly and built a nine-point lead early in the first half, but the Wolfpack forced a series of turnovers and capped a 9-2 run with a Emili Tasler 3-pointer to pull within two at 15-13 with 12:30 left in the half. Neither team could establish itself for the remainder of the period as each built four-point leads only to see them wither away, but NC State took a 36-35 edge into the locker room.

In the second half, both teams lived in spurts that generated five ties and seven lead changes. The Wolfpack was getting its points on the free throw line, while the Gamecocks stayed alive via the 3-point shot, including on from Kennedy that broke the game’s ninth tie and give the Gamecocks a 58-55 lead with 7:46 on the clock.

On the next possession, Valerie Nainima, who was primarily responsible for the Gamecocks’ hot start and finished the game with a season-high 27 points, swiped a steal and drove in for a layup to stretch the lead to five points. Marissa Kastanek buried a pair of free throws for the Wolfpack, but the Gamecocks got a put-back from Kelsey Bone and a driving bucket from La’Keisha Sutton to extend the margin to a more comfortable seven points.

NC State cranked up the defense, applying full-court pressure and got back within three. After each team hit three free throws, Nainima hit a pull-up jumper from the free throw line and Jewel May came up with a key offensive rebound, one of four off the offensive glass for her on the afternoon, to put the Gamecocks up 71-64 with just under two minutes remaining.

Amber White brought the Wolfpack back within three with a transition layup and a free throw with 51 seconds left. NC State’s full-court pressure bled the shot clock yet again. But the Gamecocks had the ball in the hands of their capable point guard, who, when realizing she couldn’t turn the corner and get to the basket in time, let her fifth 3-point attempt of the game fly. The shot found the bottom of the net with 19 seconds remaining and was the final dagger South Carolina needed to collect its third-straight win.

Nainima’s 27 points led all scorers, while Kennedy added 18 and Bone kicked in 10 to go alone with her team-high nine rebounds. NC State had four players in double figures, led by Nikitta Gartrell’s 23 points. Kennedy and freshman Ieasia Walker, who drew her first career start, shared game-high assist honors with four apiece.

South Carolina closes out a three-game homestand with another matchup against an ACC school on Thu., Dec. 17, as Wake Forest comes to Colonial Life Arena for a 7 p.m. tipoff.

NOTE: Sophomore guard Courtney Newton who suffered an injury to her right knee in practice on Friday will undergo surgery this week and is out for the season.

Team Stats Comparison
Points 74 71
FG Made-Attempted 27-71 (38%) 22-53 (42%)
3P Made-Attempted 7-16 (44%) 4-12 (33%)
FT Made-Attempted 13-23 (57%) 23-32 (72%)
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 23 (0) 21 (0)
Game Leaders
South Carolina N.C. State
Points V. Nainima 27 N. Gartrell 23
Rebounds K. Bone 9 B. Holston 10
Assists S. Kennedy/I. Walker 4 A. White 3
Steals K. Bone 3 A. White 2
Blocks Three players with 1 M. Kastanek 6
Next 5 Games
South Carolina N.C. State
12/17 Wake Forest 7 PM Buy Tickets 12/19 Winthrop
12/20 vs. North Carolina (Myrtle Beach) 3 PM 12/22 @ Georgetown
12/28 vs. Boston Univ. (St. Joe’s Hawk Classic) 4 PM 12/28 Seton Hall
12/29 vs. Brown/St. Joe’s (St. Joe’s Hawk Classic) 2/4 PM 12/30 @ USC
1/3 LSU 6 PM Buy Tickets 1/4 Columbia