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Feb. 4, 2010

Box Score | Box Score in PDF Format

With timely offensive rebounding from Jewel May and clutch free throw shooting from both her and Valerie Nainima, South Carolina picked up a 61-58 victory at Auburn in SEC women’s basketball action Thursday night at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. Nainima and Kelsey Bone finished with 20 and 24 points, respectively, as Bone took control late in the second half, scoring 14 of her points in the period.

After Auburn put together an 11-0 run to take the lead with six minutes left, Bone put the offense on her back, netting the Gamecocks’ next seven points. Defensively, a pair of steals helped the Gamecocks get back in front 52-49 with 4:25 to go. The Tigers were not finished, however, taking advantage of a missed free throw on a 1-and-1 opportunity to score four straight points, punctuated by Morgan Toles’ steal and layup to put Auburn back on top 53-52 with 2:41 left to play.

Nainima drilled her first 3-pointer of the second half, but KeKe Carrier answered with a traditional three-point play. The teams traded baskets on the next two possessions, leaving Auburn with a 58-57 edge with 45 seconds to go on Alli Smalley’s floater from the left baseline. After Bone missed on the Gamecocks’ next possession, May came up with her second clutch offensive rebound. Fouled on the play, she hit both free throws to instantly quiet the rowdy Auburn crowd and give the Gamecocks a 59-58 lead with 26 ticks left on the clock.

The Gamecock defense clamped down in the waning seconds, forcing Smalley to lift a contested shot from the free throw line. The ball hit the back of the rim and bounced over the backboard, turning the ball back over to South Carolina. Fouled immediately on the in-bounds pass, Nainima hit both her free throws with eight seconds to go for a three-point margin. The Gamecock guards forced the Tigers to use up nearly all eight seconds in the back court to seal the victory.

Neither team could fully wrest control of the first half as no team had a lead of more than six points throughout the first 20 minutes. The Tigers did their damage with high-percentage shots, hitting 59.1 percent from the field in the half. Meanwhile the Gamecocks relied seemed to split their attack between Kelsey Bone, who finished the first half with 10 points to go with seven rebounds, and outside shooting, netting five 3-pointers. The combination of inside player early and long-range shots late had South Carolina holding a three-point lead at halftime.

In the second half, the Gamecock defense forced the Tigers into more difficult shots, helping South Carolina put together a 9-2 run to build an eight-point lead, 45-37, at the 13:27 mark. Valerie Nainima and Bone accounted for all nine points. The Tigers answered with an 11-0 spurt, spurred on by defensive and rebounding efforts that held the Gamecocks scoreless for more than seven minutes. The Gamecock defense put forth a solid effort during the offensive drought, but at the end of the run, the Tigers had taken a 48-45 lead with 6:19 on the clock, setting the stage for the late-game rally.

Bone posted her seventh double-double of the season, pulling down 14 rebounds, one shy of her career high, including eight on the offensive end. The Gamecocks committed a season-low eight turnovers and swiped six steals in the outing.

South Carolina travels to Athens, Ga., for a 2 p.m. matchup with No. 14/14 Georgia on Sun., Feb. 7.