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Nov. 23, 2012

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ST. THOMAS, U.S.V.I. – South Carolina used good starts in both halves to out-shoot Florida Gulf Coast for a 65-46 win in women’s basketball action on day two of the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam. The Gamecocks (6-0) got another double-double from Aleighsa Welch (14 pts/11 rebs), her second in as many games at the event and out-rebounded the Eagles 46-20 in the victory.

Early in both halves, the Gamecocks focused on taking the ball right at the rim. Welch and Ashley Bruner did the damage in the opening minutes of the game, scoring the game’s first eight points, including six by Welch, while the defense forced four turnovers on Florida Gulf Coast’s first five possessions.

The teams traded 3-pointers just before the Eagles opened a 7-2 surge, capped by Taylor Gradinjan’s 3 from the left wing that brought her team within three at 13-10 midway through the half. After a pair of empty possessions for both teams, Bruner and Asia Dozier got the Gamecock offense rolling for a 14-6 run, most of which came on inside work.

Bruner kicked off the spurt with a move in the paint, and, after a steal on the other end, Dozier buried a pull-up jumper from the right side to put the Gamecocks up by seven. Sarah Hansen drove for two of her 11 first-half points, but Bruner went right back to work on the block. A turnover yielded a Hansen layup, which Ieasia Walker answered with a 3-pointer from the right wing. Welch netted the next three points on a free throw and a baseline jumper. Sancheon White picked up a steal and converted the resulting layup for a 27-16 South Carolina lead with just over three minutes left in the period.

Three 3-pointers from FGCU narrowed the gap to six by halftime with the Gamecocks taking a 32-26 lead into the locker room. After the break, South Carolina returned more aggressive and eager to get to the rim. Mitchell drove for a layup early in the half, then dropped a sweet assist off for White in transition off a rebound. Yet another defensive rebound had Walker out quickly on the break, and the senior drove deep into the lane before finding White charging in from the left side to collect the pass and hit another easy layup, giving South Carolina its largest lead of the game at 38-26 just over two minutes into the second half.

Following a transition layup from Mitchell and a short jumper by the Eagles, Bruner scored the game’s next seven points to stretch the lead to 47-28 at the 12:46 mark. From there, the Gamecocks held FGCU at bay with solid rebounding and aggressive defense on the perimeter, not allowing the Eagles’ 3-point shooters to get dialed in.

Six of Welch’s 11 rebounds cameo on the offensive end, while Mitchell matched her for game-high honors with 11 rebounds of her own. Bruner led the offense with 15 points, and White rounded out the trio of double-figure scorers with 11 points to go with her three steals. Mitchell led the way with three assists, adding eight points. South Carolina shot 44.3 percent from the field and grabbed 24 of its 46 rebounds on the offensive end.

The Gamecocks will vie for the title of the Reef Division on Saturday, taking on DePaul, which also won its first two games this weekend, at 3:30 p.m. (ET).