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Feb. 10, 2011

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South Carolina vs. Kentucky
February 10, 2011 • Columbia, S.C.
Team 1st 2nd Total
Kentucky 24 37 61
South Carolina 30 36 66
Coach Staley I. Walker & L. Sutton

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina used its opponent’s strength against it as the Gamecocks clamped down on defense and turned it into easy offense in a 66-61 win over No. 15/18 Kentucky in SEC women’s basketball action at Colonial Life Arena Thursday night. South Carolina (14-10, 6-5 SEC) took the lead with 7:45 left in the first half and never trailed again, thanks to out-rebounding the Wildcats 37-32, forcing more turnovers than they committed (18-14) and converting those turnovers into more points (21-13). Guards drove the offense as La’Keisha Sutton, Ieasia Walker and Markeshia Grant all netted double figures for the Gamecocks, while Jewel May and Grant tied for team-high honors on the glass.

Both teams struggled with turnovers and poor shooting early, and Kentucky took a 12-8 lead on Maegan Conwright’s reverse layup with 10:31 left in the first half. Grant kicked off a 14-2 Gamecock surge with a steal and layup to cut what would end up being the Wildcats’ largest and last lead of the night in half. After Walker netted a jumper from the left elbow to tie the game at 12-12, Grant put back her own miss then turned a UK turnover into a baseline drive for a 16-12 South Carolina edge. Conwright answered with a drive of her own, but Grant went right back to work with a jumper from the right elbow. Another Wildcat turnover yielded a runner from Ashley Bruner, and Walker’s baseline jumper made it a 22-14 Gamecock advantage with 5:24 left in the period.

A Jennifer O’Neill 3-pointer narrowed the gap to 26-24 inside the final minute of the half, but May’s layup and a Walker steal that turned into a Sutton layup sent the Gamecocks into the locker room with a 30-24 advantage.

The second half brought more of the same as South Carolina turned Kentucky over nine more times, held steady on the glass and continued to shoot better than 40 percent from the field. Walker netted 13 of her 17 points and swiped three of her four steals in the final 20 minutes. All of which resulted in Kentucky’s inability to put together more than four points at a time and South Carolina’s extending its lead to as many as 11 at 49-38 with 8:15 left to play.

Kentucky twice made late surges, pulling within three at 55-52 on an A’dia Mathies runner in the lane, on which she was fouled. She failed on convert the free throw, however, and the Gamecocks’ Walker and Grant converted their free throw attempts on the next two trips down the floor. Mathies again had her team within striking distance as her jumper off a turnover made it a 61-57 game with 1:07 left on the clock. Again, it was the free throw line that was the difference maker for the Gamecocks with Valerie Nainima hitting a pair to answer the surge. Walker and Grant salted away the game with free throws in the waning moments to seal the win.

Sutton and Walker’s 17 points apiece were game highs, and Grant added 12 points as the Gamecocks shot 45.5 percent from the field. May and Grant snagged eight rebounds each. Defensively, Walker added four steals and May swatted a career-high three blocks. South Carolina’s complete team effort, which head coach Dawn Staley characterized as executing the game plan for the full 40 minutes, yielded a victory despite handing out just two assists and not connecting on a 3-pointer.

With a 4-1 record in their last five games, including back-to-back home wins over ranked teams, the Gamecocks hit the road for their next two outings. The stretch tips off at Mississippi State on Sun., Feb. 13, at 2 p.m. (ET) in a game to be aired on the SEC Network.