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Jan. 28, 2010

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Coach Staley
Valerie Nainima and Kelsey Bone

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina sophomore La’Keisha Sutton spearheaded the Gamecocks’ 64-50 win over Ole Miss Thursday night, making her presence felt on both ends of the floor. The second-year guard scored 13 points and handed out six assists all while holding the SEC’s top scorer, Bianca Thomas, under double digits for the first time this season. The Gamecocks (11-9, 4-4 SEC) hounded the Rebels (14-6, 5-2 SEC) relentlessly on offense, holding the league’s top-scoring team 23 points below its average in SEC games.

“[Ole Miss] attacks the basket a lot, but you’re around them, they’ll miss shots,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. “That’s where we wanted our players to stay, in their shots. They don’t all shoot a big percentage from the floor, so you’ve got a shot at staying in the play and getting rebounds against them.”

After seeing the Rebels score first, South Carolina took the lead with the inside-outside game that has been its trademark in wins this season. Valerie Nainima opened strong with a 3-pointer, then Sutton and Kelsey Bone went to work with layups and short jumpers. Ole Miss knotted the game with back-to-back buckets, but the Gamecocks answered with a 9-2 run that began with a pair of buckets from Charenee Stephens and ended with a Sutton 3-pointer to put South Carolina up 20-13 midway through the half.

Thomas drew her second foul of the game just after the Gamecocks took the seven-point lead and spent much of the rest of the period on the bench while South Carolina built a 10-point lead at the break.

A jumper from Jewel May and a layup from Samone Kennedy right out of halftime gave the Gamecocks a 14-point margin. That gap grew to as much as 20 points before the Rebels began to find their range with a 13-2 surge that brought them within nine points at 47-38 with 8:22 left to play. While the Gamecock offense cooled off during the stretch, the Rebels chipped away at the their deficit with mid-range jumpers and free throws. Once the spurt was capped by an Elizabeth Roberts 3-pointer, Stephens ended the surge with an inside jumper.

The margin hovered around 10 points for the next four minutes and the Rebels drew within eight at 58-50 with a pair of Kayla Melson free throws at the 3:22 mark. Ole Miss tried to narrow the gap but the Gamecocks sealed the win at the free throw line.

South Carolina shot 47.4 percent for the game, including 42.9 percent from 3-point range with Nainima hitting 5-of-9 from beyond the arc to finish with a game-high 17 points. Sutton’s 13 points was just ahead of Stephens’ 12 and Bone’s 11, who tied for team-high honors with six rebounds each.

The Gamecocks are back in action on Sun., Jan. 31, against No. 5/5 Tennessee. Tipoff at Colonial Life Arena is set for 2 p.m.