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Dec. 21, 2012

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – Three Gamecocks scored in double figures as No. 21/17 South Carolina scored a 65-45 win over South Carolina State in the final game before the holiday break for both teams. Freshman Tiffany Mitchell scored a career-high 21 points as part of her second career double-double, which included a career-high 11 rebounds. Sophomore forward Aleighsa Welch notched her sixth double-double of the season with 16 points and 14 rebounds, while senior guard Ieasia Walker tied her career-high with six of the Gamecocks’ 11 steals in the game.

Tiffany Mitchell is always ready to go,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. “Sometimes she is a stat-filler, and sometimes she’s not. With experience and her playing well lately, she will find a way to be effective no matter who we’re playing. I think she felt really bad because she didn’t play as well as she would have liked against Stanford, but those are the things that make an athlete grow. And she responded well today.”

The Gamecocks got off to a slow start offensively, but defense and rebounding kept it close through the first six minutes. Mitchell finally got the offense on track, scoring seven points of an 8-0 run that put the Gamecocks in front for the first time in the game. With South Carolina trailing 7-4, Mitchell drove hard to the basket to end a two-minute scoring drought. After a surge of quick turnovers for both teams, Mitchell buried a three from the left corner to put the Gamecocks up 9-7. Another Lady Bulldog turnover resulted in a free throw from Ashley Bruner, and Mitchell netted two more after being fouled on the rebound of her teammate’s miss for a 12-7 lead with 11:29 left in the half.

SC State stayed within five points until the final three minutes of the half. Sophomore center Elem Ibiam started a 7-0 spurt with back-to-back baskets. The second of the buckets came after Asia Dozier followed her own miss and found Ibiam, who completed the traditional three-point play. Mitchell closed the half with a driving layup that sent the Gamecocks into the locker room with a 33-21 advantage.

Both teams struggled with turnovers early in the second half before the Gamecocks got things under control for an 8-0 that seemed to break the Lady Bulldogs’ resolve. Welch kicked off the run with a free throw, and Mitchell turned the offensive rebound into a long jump shot for a 36-21 lead. After forcing SC State into a missed shot on the other end, Welch achieved her sixth double-double of the season with a putback. Sancheon White closed out the spurt with a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to give the Gamecocks a 20-point lead that they would not relinquish.

Mitchell’s 20 points marks the first 20-point game by a Gamecock this season. For Welch, eight of her 14 rebounds came on the offensive end to tie her career high, and she posted exactly half of her points and rebounds in each half. Ibiam joined the duo in double figures with 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 accuracy from the free throw line. Bruner led the way with four assists, all coming in the first half. She and Walk each blocked two shots.

South Carolina takes a break for the holiday, but the Gamecocks will return to action on Sat., Dec. 29, for a 7 p.m. game against Western Carolina at Colonial Life Arena.