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Feb. 28, 2010

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NASHVILLE, TN – South Carolina pulled out a 73-70 win at No. 22 Vanderbilt Sunday afternoon, closing the regular season with a 14-14 overall record and a 7-9 mark in SEC play. The Gamecocks used a 26-10 surge in the second half to turn a nine-point deficit into a seven-point lead as four players finished with double-figure points, let by Valerie Nainima’s 23 and Ieasia Walker’s career-high 18.

The Gamecocks trailed by just three at halftime thanks to 10 points from Nainima and outstanding work on the offensive glass by Jewel May and Ieasia Walker. The narrow margin was encouraging given that Kelsey Bone was limited to just nine minutes due to foul trouble.

South Carolina was able to overcome the narrow halftime deficit with 53.3 percent shooting in the second half as Nainima, Bone and Charenee Stephens all began firing on all cylinders.

After the Gamecocks tied the game at 32-32 right out of the break, Vanderbilt scored the next nine points to open its largest lead of the game. Nainima hit back-to-back 3-pointers to pull within three at 45-42. The Commodore lead stretched out to five before the Gamecocks went on their largest surge of the contest, netting the next eight points, including four from Stephens to take a 54-51 lead with 8:30 left to play.

Vanderbilt got it back to one on a bucket from Rebecca Silinski, but the Gamecocks went right back to work on the interior as Stephens sandwiched a Bone post move with two layups of her own to extend the lead to 62-55 with just under six minutes to play. Merideth Marsh netted the next four points for the Commodores, and Hannah Tuomi added three more to counter Walker’s 3-pointer from the left side. After Stephens hit another bucket from the right block, Marsh and Tuomi scored the next six points to give Vandy a 68-67 lead with 1:29 to play.

From there, the Gamecock freshmen took over with Bone and Walker doing a bulk of the damage. Bone hit a pair of free throws to put South Carolina back in front 69-68. After Jessica Mooney missed a layup, Bone secured the rebound and found Walker on the outlet. The freshman guard was fouled and hit the first free throw of her 1-and-1 opportunity. Walker hit both ends of her 1-and-1 opportunity to push the lead to three points with 13 seconds to go. Vandy hit a layup on the other end and fouled Walker again, looking for the freshman to struggle at crunch time. Walker continued her efficient game, though, hitting the front end of the 1-and-1, and Bone boarded the miss on her second attempt. Nainima’s two free throws iced the game for the Gamecocks.

Stephens and Bone joined Nainima and Walker in double figures with 14 and 12 points, respectively. All of four of those 26 points game in the second half. May led the way on the boards with nine rebounds, including seven on the offensive end, while La’Keisha Sutton handed out six assists.

The Gamecocks head to the SEC Tournament for a Thursday first-round game. The specifics of that contest will be released later on Sunday.