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Jan. 13, 2011

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – A second half marred by 17 turnovers cost South Carolina a 66-48 loss at No. 19/19 Kentucky in SEC women’s basketball action at Memorial Coliseum Thursday night. The Gamecocks (9-8, 1-3 SEC) had a three-point lead at the half, but saw the Wildcats (12-4, 1-2 SEC) dominate the battle of scoring runs in the second half.

The Gamecocks stormed out of the gate, opening a 7-2 lead with Valerie Nainima opening the game with a 3-pointer from the left wing and Jewel May burying a jump hook. Ieasia Walker capped the start with a pair of free throws as she was fouled going to the basket. The Wildcats answered with a run of their own, an 11-2 surge that put them up 13-9 on a long jumper from Bernisha Pinkett with 13:06 left in the half.

Back-to-back steals from Walker and La’Keisha Sutton turned into traditional three-point plays, giving the Gamecocks a 26-21 lead with 6:24 left in the opening period. The strong defense sparked the Wildcats, though, and the home team rattled off the next seven points. Again it was Pinkett that put Kentucky in front with her driving basket making it a 28-26 game at the 4:33 mark. South Carolina mounted the half’s final spurt with Nainima draining a pair of long jumpers at the end of the shot clock, and Markeshia Grant driving the length of the court for a bucket at the buzzer to send the Gamecocks into the locker room with a 33-30 advantage.

Turnovers were the story of the second half as the Gamecocks managed just 15 points in the second 20 minutes of play, shooting just 31.6 percent from the field after netting 48.1 percent in the first half. While South Carolina was turning the ball over, Kentucky was turning the miscues into points. The Wildcats scored 18 points on the second-half turnovers alone.

The game stayed tight through the first seven minutes of the half, and Nainima’s long jumper had the Gamecocks up 45-43 with 12:36 to play. From there, however, South Carolina’s offense stagnated despite the frenetic activity on the court. The Gamecocks managed just three more points in the game and recorded 11 of their season-high 28 turnovers in the final 11 minutes of play.

Nainima was the Gamecocks’ leading scorer with 13 points, hitting 6-of-9 from the field. Walker added 10 points, all in the first half, and picked up three steals in the outing. May reeled in a game-high nine rebounds, the most for her this season.

South Carolina continues on the road with a contest at Ole Miss on Sun., Jan. 16, at 3 p.m.