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Jan. 10, 2010

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – South Carolina claimed an 80-68 victory over Alabama in a game of runs to claim its first SEC win of the season. The Gamecocks had five players score in double figures, with Valerie Nainima leading the way with 21, 14 of which came in the first half. Kelsey Bone finished with a solid double-double, scoring 14 points to go with her 13 rebounds. South Carolina shot a sizzling 59.6 percent from the field, including 8-of-12 from 3-point range to pick up the road victory.

The Gamecocks jumped out to a quick start with solid defense and quick-strike offense. While the defense held the Crimson Tide scoreless for a full three minutes, the offense built a 10-point lead behind an putback from Charenee Stephens, a 3-point bucket from Valeria Nainima out of a busted play and a Nainima layup off a pinpoint bullet pass through two defenders from Ieasia Walker on a fast break.

The South Carolina lead hovered around 10 points until the final three minutes of the half when Alabama turned the Gamecocks’ effort against them, ramping up the defensive pressure and wasting little time getting up shots. A 10-point Gamecocks lead at the 3:25 mark got but in half by the halftime buzzer. A 6-0 surge turned the Tide in Alabama’s favor with a trio of transition jumpers that brought the Crimson Tide within three at 32-35. Nainima stopped the bleeding with a baseline 3-pointer. After getting a stop on the other end, the Gamecocks had a chance to extend their lead further, but a Varisia Raffington steal lead to an open layup at the halftime buzzer for a 38-34 South Carolina edge.

The Gamecocks opened the second half with a seven-point surge with Kelsey Bone scoring a putback, La’Keisha Sutton nailing her third 3-pointer of the game, and Ashley Bruner hitting from the left block. The Crimson Tide answered with a 6-0 spurt to pull back within five points in the first three minutes of the half.

The lead stayed in the five-point range until the Gamecocks put together another 7-0 spurt behind defense and rebounding. Nainima drained a 3 at the end of the shot clock to kick off the spurt, and Stephens took care of the rest with a pair of buckets from close range to give the Gamecocks a 12-point lead with 8:30 left on the clock.

The Crimson Tide was not done, though, mounting a 9-2 rally inside the six-minute mark by crashing the boards. Tierney Jenkins made the most of the offensive rebounds with a driving layup and a putback. Raffington brought the lead inside double-digits with a steal and layup before Walker drained a pair of free throws for the Gamecocks. Dedrea Magee’s traditional three-point play made it an eight-point game inside two minute before the Gamecock defense clamped down again and allowed just one more point to close out the win.

Sutton’s 13 points along with 10 from Stephens and Walker rounded out the double-digit scorers for the Gamecocks. South Carolina has not had five players reach double-figure points since a win over Jackson State on Dec. 7, 2007. The Gamecocks out-rebounded the Crimson Tide 33-31 and tied their season high with 19 assists.

South Carolina returns to Columbia for a two-game homestand at Colonial Life Arena, beginning with a 7 p.m. contest on Thu., Jan. 14, at Colonial Life Arena.