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Dec. 30, 2010

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South Carolina vs. South Carolina State
December 30, 2010 • Columbia, S.C.
Team 1st 2nd Total
South Carolina State 16 28 44
South Carolina 34 29 63
Coach Staley V. Nainima & M. Grant

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Early offense and late defense were the keys to a 63-44 South Carolina win over South Carolina State in women’s basketball action at Colonial Life Arena Thursday night. South Carolina (8-5) used a 17-2 run to open the first half then survived a nine-minute lull early in the second half to hold off the Lady Bulldogs. Three Gamecocks reached double figures with Valerie Nainima leading the way with 12 points, while Charenee Stephens pulled in a game-high 11 boards in the victory. La’Keisha Sutton turned in another solid all-around effort with 10 points, seven assists and four steals.

The South Carolina offense was fueled by defensive pressure right out of the gate. After South Carolina State’s Trinese Fox scored the game’s first basket, the Gamecocks forced turnovers on four of the Lady Bulldogs’ next six possessions. On the other end, shots were falling from all directions for South Carolina. Samone Kennedy put the team up with a 3-pointer from the right corner to kick off the surge, and Ieasia Walker hit a pair of free throws. Sutton turned in a traditional three-point play after turning a turnover into a driving layup and getting fouled. Kennedy drove hard to the basket, and Ashley Bruner hit a bucket from the left block off a feed from Sutton. Nainima buried a 3-pointers form the left corner, and Bruner capped the uninterrupted Gamecock scoring with a transition layup.

The Gamecocks took a 34-16 lead into the locker room at halftime, but the game got turned on its head in the second half. While South Carolina struggled to get shots to fall during a spate of turnovers, the Lady Bulldogs pursued their physical game and made the Gamecocks pay for their miscues. With her team down 18 points (36-18), Fannie Goodwin hit a long jump shot to start a 13-1 spurt that cut the South Carolina lead down to six points with 12:03 left on the clock. During the run, the Lady Bulldogs took advantage of their free throw attempts and limited the Gamecocks to one shot or a turnover on each possession. Paris Alston’s hook shot at the 14:58 mark brought the Lady Bulldogs inside double digits for the first time since early in the first half. Sutton took a hard foul and hit 1-of-2 from the free throw line to stop the 9-0 run, but South Carolina State went right back at it with a pair of free throws from Tiara Knotts. Trinese Fox’s bucket from the left block after a winning a scramble for a loose ball brought the Lady Bulldogs within 37-31 and forced South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley to call a timeout to settle her team.

Out of the 30-second break, Markeshia Grant buried a 3-pointer from the left corner to give South Carolina some breathing room, and Bruner followed with a move on the block to stretch the lead back to double digits at 42-31 with 9:33 to play. Three minutes later a Knotts 3-pointer from the right wing closed the gap to 46-37, but a Sutton driving layup and another Grant 3-pointer pushed the lead back out to 14 points, and the Gamecocks held on from there.

Three of Nainima’s four field goals came from 3-point range as she scored a season high. Marah Strickland and Sutton joined her in double figures with 10 points apiece, while Bruner fell just short with nine points. Sutton added seven assists and picked up four steals for the second time in as many games. Stephens’ 11 rebounds included five on the offensive end.

South Carolina turned 19 Lady Bulldog turnovers into 25 points and used 14 offensive rebounds to net 12 second-chance points. The Gamecocks won the battle of the boards 32-21 and outscored the Lady Bulldogs in the paint 22-20.

Next on the schedule for South Carolina is the SEC opener as the Gamecocks travel to Georgia for a 2 p.m. showdown on Sun., Jan. 2.