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Nov. 18, 2012

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — With a pair of Gamecocks in double figures, South Carolina stormed past Clemson 64-43 in women’s basketball action at Colonial Life Arena on Sunday. The Gamecocks improve to 4-0 on the season for the first time in the Dawn Staley era behind early scoring runs in each half. The South Carolina defense did not allow a Clemson field goal for the first 11 minutes of the game and never looked back in holding the Lady Tigers to 23.9 percent shooting.

“I think we do a pretty good job at defending,” Staley said. “We do a pretty good job of disrupting the other team’s offense and taking away what they do best. I thought for the most part we did that today. We were contesting all their shots.”

The Gamecocks were strong early on both sides of the ball, pounding inside for buckets while not allowing the Lady Tigers to hit a field goal until the final nine minutes of the first half. A command of the defensive glass helped as well. After both teams shook off the early adrenaline of the rivalry, the Gamecocks settled in with a 17-5 run, during which four of the five starters netted points.

Clemson was on the board first with a pair of free throws, but it was all Gamecocks from there. After Tiffany Mitchell hit a free throw, Aleighsa Welch hit a basket in transition to put South Carolina on top 3-2. Ashley Bruner added a traditional three-point play on a move from the left block, which Mitchell duplicated on the next possession for an 8-2 South Carolina edge. The Lady Tigers got to the free throw line to interrupt the run, hitting one of two attempts. Ieasia Walker sparked a surge with a pair of free throws, and Bruner converted another traditional three-point play for a 13-3 South Carolina lead with 15:13 left in the half. Three straight Clemson turnovers delivered a pair of free throws from Khadijah Sessions and a short jumper in the paint from Elem Ibiam. Bruner’s putback stretched the lead to 19-5.

With a 14-point lead, the Gamecocks saw the Lady Tigers put together a burst to cut the lead to nine points as shots finally started to fall. Chelsea Linsdey hit a long jumper from the right wing, but Wilka Montout answered it with a move on the left block. The next five points went to the Lady Tigers, whose height began paying dividends on the glass and in altering shots. A putback from Quinyotta Pettaway kicked off five straight points for Clemson, pulling within 21-12 with 6:39 to go in the half.

Mitchell stopped the surge with a baseline drive, sealed nicely by Welch in the paint. Welch added a pair of free throws, and the lead was back up to 13 points. That was the margin the Gamecocks took into the locker room, leading 31-18.

South Carolina opened the second half on a 10-2 run before the Lady Tigers got settled into the period. Mitchell did a bulk of the scoring in the surge, but great defensive rebounding again allowed the points to come uninterrupted. Bruner opened the half with a basket, and Sancheon White followed with a transition layup. Mitchell went back-to-back after another Lady Tiger turnover, driving and spinning into the lane then hitting a transition layup. Walker closed the spurt with a pair of free throws for a 41-20 Gamecock advantage with 16:13 to play. The Lady Tigers leveled out on the offensive end, but could not get enough stops to make much headway into the commanding lead.

Bruner and Mitchell led all scorers with 16 points each, while Bruner tied Walker for team-high honors on the glass with eight apiece. Walker added four assists and four steals as well. Eight of the nine Gamecocks who checked into the game scored at least three points, with five finishing with six or more in a balanced scoring night. On the boards, South Carolina out-rebounded Clemson 46-28, including 20 offensive boards. Mitchell, White and Welch added six rebounds each to the total team effort.

The Gamecocks are on the road next week, traveling to the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam for three games over Thanksgiving weekend. South Carolina will take on Hampton, Florida Gulf Coast and DePaul on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

INJURY UPDATE: Following today’s game, South Carolina Athletics medical director, Dr. Jeffrey Guy, confirmed that freshman guard Tiffany Davis suffered a ligament injury to her right knee that will require season-ending surgery.