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Feb. 6, 2011

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – South Carolina’s clutch shooting late delivered a 64-62 win at Arkansas Sunday afternoon in SEC women’s basketball action. Valerie Nainima netted 11 of her 14 points in the second half to put the Gamecocks (13-10, 5-5 SEC) in position for the win. And, after struggling from the free throw line throughout the game, clutch free throws from Ieasia Walker and La’Keisha Sutton, respectively, pushed the game to overtime and delivered the win.

Arkansas trailed by six at the half, but went on to take a nine-point lead in the second half as the Gamecocks struggled shooting the ball. But Valerie Nainima went to work on the Razorbacks, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to bring South Carolina within four at 48-44 with 4:15 left to play. Sarah Watson converted a traditional three-point play to stretch the lead back out, but the Gamecocks had the momentum.

A Walker three-point play and free throws from Nainima had South Carolina within three with 3:01 on the clock, but Arkansas took care of the defensive boards on the next two possessions and stretched its advantage back to seven 55-48 thanks to C’eira Ricketts’ runner in the lane. From there, the Gamecock defense locked down. Jewel May put back a missed shot, and after an offensive rebound from Courtney Newton, Nainima drained her third 3 of the half for a 55-53 game with 18.7 seconds left. Substituting offense for defense, the specialists forced Ricketts into a trap in the corner where she was called for traveling. On the ensuing inbounds play, Walker was fouled and headed to the line for a 1-and-1 opportunity. The sophomore was just 2-6 from the line on the night, but sank both to tie the game with 14 seconds to go.

Walker went right back to work in the overtime period, swiping a steal that led to a Sutton layup. After Arkansas tied the game, Sutton hit her second 3-pointer of the game form the right corner for a 60-57 Gamecock advantage. After Ashley Daniels cut the margin to one with just under three minutes to go, both teams went cold for the next 2:30. South Carolina struck first as Walker drove the lane and threaded the needle to find Ashley Bruner for a bucket on the right block, giving South Carolina a 62-59 advantage with 19 seconds to play. The Gamecock defense set up for the inbounds play, but sent Lyndsay Harris to the line for two shots. After hitting the first, she missed the second, and Yashira Delgado snuck in for the rebound and hit a short jumper to tie the game 62-62 with seven seconds to play.

Sutton raced the ball up the court for the Gamecocks and was tripped up a midcourt, sending her to the line for a pair of free throws. Like Walker, Sutton had struggled from the line on the afternoon, hitting just 3-of-6 so far. The veteran guard calmly drained both, and the defense forced a wild shot at the end of the game.

With neither team connecting offensively, the first half became a defensive struggle. The Gamecocks used a late run to wrest control of the half and fought off a late charge by the Razorbacks to take a 25-19 lead into halftime. Arkansas’ Lyndsay Harris hit a short jumper to put the Razorbacks up 10-6 with 12:06 left in the half. Markeshia Grant hit a 3-pointer from the left side to spark an 11-1 run that put the Gamecocks in control. Arkansas went just over seven minutes without a field goal during the stretch as South Carolina forced five turnovers in that time, one of which Grant turned into a layup. Nainima hit a 3 from the right sideline, and Walker converted a traditional three-point play on with a transition layup and free throw for a 17-11 Gamecock lead with 6:07 left to play. The Razorbacks looked to cut the lead back in the final minutes of the half, but Sutton squashed the spurt with a runner in the lane and a transition layup off a turnover to keep South Carolina up by six at the break.

South Carolina shot 50.0 percent from the field in the overtime to finish the game at 41.5 percent shooting. Defensively, the Gamecocks allowed just 37.1 percent shooting fro the Razorbacks, including just 33.3 percent in the extra period.

Sutton’s 21 points led all scorers, and she added three assists as well. Walker finished with 11 points and a career-high six assists along with three steals. Nainima’s 14 points were her season high, and May led the Gamecocks on the glass with seven, including four on the offensive end.

South Carolina returns home for its next game, a 7 p.m. tipoff on Thu., Feb. 10, against No. 16/18 Kentucky.