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Jan. 9, 2011

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South Carolina vs. Florida
January 9, 2011 • Columbia, S.C.
Team 1st 2nd Total
Florida 31 34 65
South Carolina 31 32 63
Coach Staley
V. Nainima & I. Walker

COLUMBIA, S.C. – In a game where neither team could take command, South Carolina dropped a 65-63 decision to Florida in SEC women’s basketball action at Colonial Life Arena Sunday afternoon. The Gamecocks (9-7, 1-2 SEC) got gutty performances from Ieasia Walker and Ashley Bruner, but the Gators (12-5, 2-1 SEC) took advantage of late miscues to escape with the win. It was the second-straight game for South Carolina that was decided by two points.

The game was a seesaw battle right from the outset and featured nine ties and 13 lead changes by the end of the 40 minutes. South Carolina established the largest lead of the game with an eight-point margin early in the first half, but once the teams went into the locker room tied at the half neither could edge away by more than a handful of points.

After Florida’s Deana Allen hit 1-of-2 from the free throw line to give the Gators their largest lead of the game (57-53) with 5:46 on the clock, the Gamecocks mounted a comeback, despite Walker’s trip to the locker room with cramping in her right leg. Valerie Nainima hit a 3-pointer from the top of the arc at the end of the shot clock to swing momentum back to the home team. On the other end, Bruner stepped in and took a charge from Allen, which set up Nainima’s second 3-pointer of the game, which put South Carolina back on top 59-57 with just over three minutes to play.

Florida suffered a turnover on its third-straight possession, but a Nainima jumper from the left elbow bounced out to Jordan Jones. Azania Stewart connected on a jump hook for the game’s final tie 59-59 with 2:16 to play.

Both teams misfired on their next possessions, and Walker announced her return to the game with an immediate drive to the basket. She hit both free throws for a 61-59 South Carolina edge with 1:46 remaining. After Florida called a time out, the Gamecock defense lost track of Jones, who buried an uncontested 3 from the right wing for a 62-61 Gator lead with 90 seconds left. South Carolina called a time out to set up a play for La’Keisha Sutton, who hit a layup with 1:11 on the clock.

Florida looked for another clean shot, but Walker drew a foul on Jennifer George’s illegal screen on the play. Gamecock head coach Dawn Staley called another timeout to set up a play, which got a good look for Marah Strickland from 3-point range in the left corner, but the shot would not fall. The Gamecocks still had life, however, as the defense held up and forced Allen into a tough jump shot that bounced out of bounds.

With the ball and a one-point lead with 18 seconds remaining, the Gamecocks faced strong defensive pressure on the inbounds play. Just at the end of the five-second count, Sutton lobbed it in for Walker, but Bartley snuck in for the steal. She was fouled on the resulting quick layup and hit the free throw with 16 seconds left. South Carolina used its final timeout to set up the final shot, which Walker took on another drive to the basket. The shot would not go down, however, and Stewart collected the rebound with three seconds left that would seal the victory.

Three Gamecocks finished in double figures with Walker leading the way at 22 points, including a career-high four 3-pointers. Bruner netted 16 points on perfect 8-of-8 shooting – the third perfect night for a Gamecock this season. Sutton closed out the trio with 13 points to go with her career-high eight assists. Bruner and Charenee Stephens tied for team-high honors on the glass with six rebounds each.

South Carolina embarks on a two-game road swing next week, beginning at No. 10/10 Kentucky on Thu., Jan. 13.