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Jan. 2, 2011

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ATHENS, Ga. – A second-half rally was not enough to overcome a 23-point halftime deficit as South Carolina fell to Georgia 61-51 in women’s basketball action at Stegeman Coliseum. Sophomore Ashley Bruner turned in her third career double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, leading all scorers and rebounders for the game. The Gamecocks (8-6, 0-1 SEC) outscored the Lady Bulldogs (11-3, 1-0 SEC) by 13 in the second half, limiting the home team to just 28.1 percent field goal shooting and forcing 10 turnovers in the final 20 minutes.

The teams were evenly matched through the first nine minutes of the first half, but the Georgia defense and rebounding clamped down from that point and held the Gamecocks without a field goal for the final 11 minutes of the period. Early in the game, Bruner was the primary aggressor on the offensive end for South Carolina as she twice pulled the Gamecocks back from deficits in the first nine minutes of play and finished the half with seven points and four rebounds, all offensive.

The Gamecocks came alive in the second half as pressure defense sparked the offense. Bruner and Ieasia Walker did the heavy lifting early in the period, scoring the first six points of a 13-2 South Carolina run right out of the locker room. A second-straight Georgia turnover led to a Valerie Nainima 3-pointer from the left corner. Walker hit another basket, and La’Keisha Sutton’s drive narrowed the Lady Bulldogs’ lead to 42-30 with 13:30 left in the game.

Porsha Phillips stopped the Gamecock spurt with a long jumper, but South Carolina continued its push as Nainima hit another 3-pointer. Bruner put back an offensive rebound, bringing the Gamecocks within nine points at 44-35. Phillips again interrupted the offense with a transition layup, but Sutton netted the next four points on a drive and a pair of free throws as South Carolina got within seven. After Marah Strickland was fouled on a 3-pointer and hit all three of the resulting free throws, the Gamecocks were within 48-42 and carrying momentum.

Georgia solved the Gamecock press on the next two possessions, stretching its lead back to double digits at 52-42 with 6:36 to go. Free throws kept the Gamecocks within reach over the next two minutes, but a 6-0 Georgia surge in the next three minutes kept South Carolina at bay.

Sutton joined Bruner in double-figure points, netting 11, nine coming in the second half as she hit 7-of-8 from the free throw line. Walker and Strickland added seven points apiece, and Nainima finished with six. South Carolina shot 36.4 percent in the second half after hitting just 15.6 percent in the first. The battle for points in the paint was a push at 18-18, and the Gamecocks turned 17 Georgia turnovers into 17 points and scored 15 second-chance points.

South Carolina opens a two-game homestand on Thu., Jan. 6, against LSU. Tipoff at Colonial Life Arena is slated for 7 p.m. The Gamecocks then host Florida on Sun., Jan. 9, at 3 p.m.