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Feb. 28, 2013

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COLUMBIA, Mo. – No. 14/13 South Carolina dropped at 65-58 decision at Missouri Thursday night as the Tigers shot 53.5 percent to overcome 16 turnovers. The Gamecocks (22-6, 10-5 SEC) struggled from the floor against the Tigers’ 2-3 zone that shut off their usual inside production. Ieasia Walker and Khadijah Sessions finished with 14 points each, but the Tigers won the rebound battle 38-30 and hit 16-of-24 from the free throw line to collect the win.

It was tough going for the Gamecock offense in the first half, shooting just 29.0 percent against the Mizzou zone. The sagging 3-2 zone left 3-pointers open, and the Gamecocks yielded to the temptation, taking 10 in the first 20 minutes. Only Walker had the shot dialed in, though, and the long caroms allowed Missouri to control its defensive glass as well.

The South Carolina defense forced 10 Tiger turnovers in the period, including three straight that helped the Gamecocks close a 22-15 deficit with an 8-2 run beginning with 6:32 left on the clock. Tiffany Mitchell opened the spurt with a pair of free throws out of a timeout, and her steal led to a Sancheon White pull-up jumper to get the Gamecocks with three with 5:20 to play in the half. Sydney Crafton drove in for a layup, which Ashley Bruner answered on the other end just seconds later to make it a 24-21 game. Bruner cut the South Carolina deficit to one with a move on the right block with 3:22 on the clock. On the other end, Bri Kulas put back her own miss to get the Tigers back up by three. Neither team could find the basket for the next 2:30 until Sessions saw her 3-point attempt curl just over the rim to knot the game at 26-26 with 28 seconds on the clock. The Gamecock defense had the Tigers locked down, but a foul on Kulas’ jumper late in the shot clock send the junior to the free throw line, where she hit a pair to send her team into the locker room with a 28-26 lead.

The second half saw more hot shooting from the Tigers, although the Gamecocks continued to limit their number of opportunities. Aggressive offensive rebounding thwarted several solid defensive stands, though, allowing Mizzou to build six-point leads late into the game. The last came after the Gamecocks had once again come within a bucket at 54-51 on a jumper from Sessions. A defensive stop saw the Gamecocks get to the free throw line, but missing the front end of the resulting one-and-one gave the ball right back to the Tigers. Morgan Eye lined up a 3 to get her team back up by six with 4:27 on the clock.

Walker answered with a 3 from the left side, and the Gamecocks went to an aggressive, trapping full-court defense. They forced a Missouri timeout, and Welch blocked a shot that led to a shot clock violation afterward to re-energize South Carolina’s effort. The offense was not able to consolidate the effort, though, and Missouri tracked down a long rebound from a missed 3 to set up Crafton for a hard drive to the basket and a 59-54 lead with 2:08 to go. The Gamecocks made another solid defensive effort, but misfired again on the front end of a one-and-one to lose the momentum.

The Tiger lead stretched to eight before the Gamecocks scored on back-to-back possessions to draw within four at 62-58, but with just 23 seconds remaining, the Tigers iced their second victory over a nationally ranked team this season.

The Gamecocks return to Colonial Life Arena, looking to right the ship in the regular-season finale on Sun., March 3, against Florida at 1 p.m., which will air on SportSouth. South Carolina will honor its three seniors approximately 20 minutes before tipoff.