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Dec. 21, 2010

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South Carolina vs. Butler
December 21, 2010 • Columbia, S.C.
Team 1st 2nd Total
Butler 23 31 54
South Carolina 29 38 67
Coach Staley

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina wrapped up its pre-holiday schedule with a 67-54 win over Butler in women’s basketball action at Colonial Life Arena. Three Gamecocks (6-5) finished in double figures with sophomore guard Ieasia Walker narrowly missing a double-double with her 17 points and nine rebounds, both team highs. South Carolina used a big run at the start of each half to take command and hit free throws down the stretch to hold off the charging Bulldogs (6-5).

The Gamecocks used a 13-0 surge early in the first half to claim a 16-4 lead and never let the Bulldogs have the advantage, despite a late charge of 3-pointers right before the halftime buzzer. Post players were responsible for 10 the 13 points as South Carolina’s guards relentlessly attacked the basket and found teammates open underneath. Charenee Stephens opened the spurt with a putback to give the Gamecocks a 5-4 lead, and Walker hit a 3-pointer from the right sideline, the only backcourt points of the spurt. Jewel May hit a short jumper from the right side, and Stephens closed the stretch with six straight points.

Trailing by double digits less than six minutes into the contest, the Bulldogs twice put together offensive surges of their own, but the Gamecocks turned them away each time. The most dangerous of the runs came after Marah Strickland, Walker and Samone Kennedy strung together seven straight points to give South Carolina a 27-14 lead with 6:21 left in the half. Butler hit three unanswered 3-pointers to close the half, leaving the Gamecocks with just a six-point advantage at 29-23.

In the second half, South Carolina ramped up the defensive pressure and opened the final 20 minutes with a 16-3 run to take a commanding 45-26 lead. The points came in a variety of ways, starting with Kennedy’s driving layup, which was closely followed by Walker’s pull up at the elbow to put the Gamecocks up 33-23. Butler’s Brittany Bowen hit a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to briefly interrupt the surge, but it quickly continued with Stephens’ move on the left block. Strickland hit a free throw then a 3-pointer from the top of the arc. Ashley Bruner hit 1-of-2 free throws and followed that with a basket underneath, and Walker closed the spurt with a traditional three-point play with 12:04 left in the game.

The Gamecock offense slowed in the last half of the second period, although the Bulldogs could not take advantage because the South Carolina defensive effort did not wane. Late 3-pointers helped the Bulldog rally, but the Gamecocks hit 8-of-12 from the free throw line in the final two minutes of the game.

Joining Walker in double figures were Stephens with 14 points and Strickland with 11. Stephens hit all six of her shot attempts to lead the team as the Gamecocks hit 43.4 percent from the field. Sutton struggled with her shot, but led the team with five assists, her fifth-straight game with four or more assists.

South Carolina won the rebounding battle 37-34 and out-scored Butler in the paint 36-22. The Gamecocks turned 19 Butler turnovers into 17 points and netted 16 second-chance points thanks to 13 offensive rebounds.

South Carolina takes a week off for the Christmas holiday, returning to the court on Tue., Dec. 28, against Presbyterian. Tipoff a Colonial Life Arena is set for 7 p.m.