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Nov. 24, 2012

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November 24, 2012

ST. THOMAS, U.S.V.I. — South Carolina claimed the title in the Reef Division of the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam Saturday afternoon with a 55-46 win over DePaul. Aleighsa Welch was just one point shy of her third double-double in as many games at the event, and Ashley Bruner posted her second 12-rebound game of the tournament. The Gamecock defense was equally as effective, holding the Blue Demons to 29.7 percent shooting, including just four 3-pointers.

The Gamecocks forced the Blue Demons into tough shots throughout the first half, but could not pull away as physical play in the paint dominated action in the opening stanza. South Carolina was determined to drive the lane and often found daylight, but contact made finishing difficult throughout the half. More success came when the Gamecocks used their speed to beat the DePaul defense down the floor.

After the Blue Demons took a 10-9 lead with a 6-0 run aided by a pair of Gamecock turnovers, Ashley Bruner put South Carolina back on top and Sancheon White stretched the lead to 15-10 with back-to-back layups, the last coming off a baseball pass from Aleighsa Welch on a baseline out-of-bounds play. South Carolina’s lead grew to eight on a pull-up jumper from Wilka Montout and a traditional three-point play from Khadijah Sessions. The Blue Demons scored nine of the half’s last 1 points, however, to get within 22-21 heading into the locker room. The run included 3-pointers from Megan Rogowski and Brittany Hrynko, their first of the game.

DePaul jumped out first in the second half, but the teams traded baskets with Rogowski hitting a 3-pointer and a transition layup for a 28-25 Blue Demon lead. It would be DePaul’s only basket for nearly five minutes as the Gamecock defense forced tough shots and rebounders delivered outlet passes that led delivered a 12-0 surge.

White got the scoring started with a transition layup, and Mitchell followed quickly with a driving layup. Capping the six-point spurt that lasted just under a minute, White turned a steal into a transition layup for a 31-28 Gamecock lead. Walker added a transition layup, and Bruner drove the baseline on the next possession. Mitchell and Welch each added a free throw to the run, putting the Gamecocks up 37-28 with 13 minutes left to play.

With the momentum, South Carolina did not allow DePaul to put together back-to-back baskets until the final two minutes of the game. The Blue Demons forced the Gamecocks to close the victory at the free throw line, and each trip yielded at least one point to hold DePaul at bay.

Bruner and Walker tied for the scoring lead with 11 points each, while White added 10. Bruner’s 12 rebounds paced the Gamecocks on the glass as well, and Welch added 10 as South Carolina out-rebounded DePaul 47-31.

Welch was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament, and Bruner earned a spot on the all-tournament team as well.

South Carolina returns to Colonial Life Arena for its next outing, hosting Drexel on Wed., Nov. 28, at 7 p.m.