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Jan. 17, 2010

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Post-Game Blog: Winning the Battle

Coach Staley
Valerie Nainima and Kelsey Bone

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Winning the battles inside and outside, South Carolina knocked off Auburn 63-49 for the Gamecocks’ third-straight SEC victory, the first time they have put together three straight league wins since the 2005-06 season. Junior Valerie Nainima and freshman Kelsey Bone provided a bulk of the scoring, but it was another complete effort from the Gamecocks (10-7, 3-2 SEC) who out-rebounded the Tigers (11-7, 2-3 SEC) 38-31 and out-scored them in the paint 32-26. Thanks to 6-of-9 long-range accuracy from Nainima, South Carolina shot 53.3 percent from 3-point range compared to Auburns 20.0 percent.

The game was a matchup of similarly constructed teams with KeKe Carrier anchoring the lane and Alli Smalley working on the perimeter for Auburn. Bone and Nainima were up to the challenge, especially in the second half, after the rest of the Gamecock lineup proved the Tigers would have to do more than focus on their two top scorers. Additionally, the Tigers would have to deal with a fast-paced Gamecock offense that looked to push the pace and score early to minimize Carrier’s ability to clog up the middle.

Jewel May got the Gamecocks on the scoreboard first, and South Carolina never trailed in the half, thanks to solid defense and strong offensive rebounding, led by sophomore Charenee Stephens, who grabbed four of her seven offensive boards in the first half. After Carrier brought the Tigers within two at 18-16, Ashley Bruner netted back-to-back buckets to stretch the margin back to six. Auburn pushed again, and it was Nainima who pushed back, drilling a pair of 3-pointers in the final 34 seconds of the half to send the Gamecocks into the locker room with a 28-19 lead.

In the second half, Bone took over, scoring the Gamecocks’ first eight points of the half. On the other end of the floor, Carrier was also taking over for the Tigers, matching Bone’s offense effort for the first three possessions. Stephens scored on consecutive trips down the floor, and La’Keisha Sutton drained a 3-pointer from the right corner to push the Gamecocks to a 15-point lead at 44-29 with just under 14 minutes to play. From there, Nainima went to work, hitting three straight 3-pointers to ensure that the Tigers got no closer than the final margin of 14 points.

Nainima turned in her seventh 20-point effort of the season, sinking a season-high six 3-pointers while handing out a team-high four assists. For the second time in as many games, Bone fell one rebound shy of a double-double, snagging nine boards and scoring 15 points. Stephens helped the Gamecock offense, which shot 41.4 percent from the field, with seven offensive rebounds among her eight in the game. Ieasia Walker played well among the Tigers’ height with a season-high seven boards, including three offensive.

South Carolina takes its three-game win streak on the road this week, starting with a re-match against No. 12/15 LSU on Thu., Jan. 21, at 7 p.m.