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Nov. 12, 2010

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South Carolina vs. Xavier
November 12, 2010 • Columbia, S.C.
Team 1st 2nd Total
Xavier 45 39 84
South Carolina 29 36 65
Coach Staley
La’Keisha Sutton & Ashley Bruner

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Offensive struggles in the first half put South Carolina in a halftime hole it could not fully recover from in an 84-65 loss to No. 5/6 Xavier in the women’s basketball season opener for both teams. The Gamecocks out-rebounded the vaunted Musketeer frontcourt 40-35, led by sophomore Ashley Bruner, who posted her first career double-double with a game-high 15 boards and 17 points.

“Of course we would have loved to win the game, but I am taking a lot of positives from this,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. “One is rebounding. I am very proud of this particular stat because [Xavier] smashes people on the boards. Quite honestly, I think we lost the game on the offensive end, and that’s something that is easily corrected. I don’t think our starting backcourt is going to shoot 1-for-18 again.”

While the Gamecocks won the battle of the boards, the stat of the game was field goal shooting. Xavier took that handily, shooting 55.7 percent for the game to the Gamecocks’ 36.9 percent. Cold shooting struck two of South Carolina’s primary weapons as Marah Strickland and Ieasia Walker combined for 1-of-18 in the game. Sophomore La’Keisha Sutton drove the offense early, finishing the game with 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range.

Behind All-American Amber Harris and 2010 A-10 Defensive Player of the Year Ta’Shia Phillips, Xavier outscored South Carolina 48-34 in the paint. But South Carolina turned 21 offensive rebounds, including eight from Bruner, into 20 second chance points and added 20 points off 15 Xavier turnovers.

The Musketeers scored in bunches in the first half, using a pair of 10-0 runs to stake out a 31-12 lead with just over seven minutes left in the period. Early 3-pointers from Amber Harris and Tyeasha Moss left driving lanes open, which Xavier took advantage of during the surge. The Gamecocks put together back-to-back buckets from Charenee Stephens and Markeshia Grant to stem the tide, but a bulk of the damage had been done. Xavier took a 45-29 lead into the lockerroom at halftime.

In the second half, South Carolina managed to keep the Musketeers from putting together the big runs that marked first-half action. In fact, an 11-2 Gamecock run midway through the half showed what the team is capable of doing this season.

Sutton hit a pair of free throws after being fouled on her way to the basket, and Walker added two more after a pair of offensive rebounds extended the Gamecocks’ next possession. The Musketeers were a missed shot and done on the other end, as Walker’s rebound led to a fast break that Stephens finished to pull with 42-62. After a timeout, a Xavier turnover turned into a Sutton layup. Walker hit another driving layup to cap a possession stretched out by three offensive rebounds. When Walker converted the traditional three-point play, the Gamecocks were within 17 points with just under nine minutes left in the half.

It was as close as South Carolina would get in the final minutes of the contest as the Musketeers did just enough to hold off any other surges, outscoring the Gamecocks by just three points, 39-36, in the second half.

Three Gamecocks finished in double-figure points as Markeshia Grant joined Sutton and Bruner, adding 12 points in her South Carolina debut. Sutton handed out a team-high five assists and picked up three steals to tie Walker for the team lead in that category.