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Feb. 17, 2011

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KNOXVILLE – South Carolina dropped an 82-60 decision at No. 4/4 Tennessee in SEC women’s basketball action Thursday night at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Gamecocks suffered some timely offensive droughts that the Lady Vols capitalized on in the win. Ieasia Walker paved the way with 16 points, seven rebounds and three steals. But the Gamecocks (15-11, 7-6 SEC) could not overcome Tennessee’s 49.2 percent field goal shooting and 16-of-25 accuracy from the free throw line.

It was a fast-paced and physical first half, marred for the Gamecocks by a six-minute offensive lull early that left them in a 21-7 hole. South Carolina roared back, though, with a pair of 3-pointers from Markeshia Grant – the first of which narrowly beat the shot clock. Walker’s transition layup closed the gap to six points, 21-15, but a rapid series of trips to the free throw line let the Lady Vols stretch the margin back out to double digits at 26-15 with under six minutes to play in the period.

Walker’s baseline drive stopped the surge, and Valerie Nainima hit a free throw and shortly afterward a 3-pointer to pull South Carolina within five at 21-26 with just under four minutes to go. Solid rebounding late in the half helped Tennessee string together a 7-0 run, and the Lady Vols took a 40-29 lead into halftime.

The Gamecocks hung in early in the second half, but the Lady Vols again crashed their defensive boards to post a 9-0 run that gave them a 20-point lead, 60-40, midway through the half. South Carolina put together a pair of surges, the first behind Ashley Bruner and the second a personal eight-point, one-minute surge by Nainima. Tennessee had the answer each time, however.

In addition to Walker in double figures, Nainima finished with 15 points, 11 of which came in the second half. La’Keisha Sutton handed out four assists to go with her four points, while Walker added three assists and three steals to her stat line.

The Gamecocks return home for the first of their final two home games. South Carolina will take on Auburn at 2 p.m. on Sun., Feb. 20, at Colonial Life Arena.