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Jan. 30, 2014

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 7/8 South Carolina extended its program-best SEC start to 7-1 with a 99-70 victory over Ole Miss (10-12, 1-7 SEC) Thursday night at Colonial Life Arena. The Gamecocks (19-2) put the contest out of reach with a 19-1 run to end the first half and cruised in the second period with six players scoring in double figures. Freshman center Alaina Coates tied her career high with 24 points and also pulled down 12 rebounds for her seventh double-double of the season.

“This game is made of runs,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. “Ole Miss has been in almost all its games, so we knew what we were faced with. We knew we were going to be challenged. I think that over 40 minutes, we were able to impose our will on them by getting the ball down low and being efficient on the offensive end.”

With the game tied 4-4, South Carolina looked to take control. After a Tiffany Mitchell drive and bucket, the Gamecocks turned to hustle plays and defense to get going. Steals on two consecutive Rebel possessions, thanks to Mitchell and Aleighsa Welch, turned into Gamecock baskets on the other end. Eight unanswered points in under two minutes drove South Carolina to an early 12-4 lead just five minutes into the game.

Ole Miss would not go away that quickly and fought back to nearly pull even with a 12-4 run. Kenyotta Jenkinsa and Valencia McFarland keyed the effort, posting four points apiece. A pair of free throws from Amber Singletary cut the lead to one at 25-24 with seven minutes remaining before the break.

An Elem Ibiam score and a traditional three-point play from Coates got the Gamecocks back on track, igniting the deciding 19-1 run to end the period. During the spurt, South Carolina focused on taking the ball to the basket. The strategy proved effective as the team found points inside and from the free throw line where the Gamecocks made Ole Miss pay, hitting 9-of-9 from the free throw line. Mitchell hit all four of her opportunities during the run.

During the pivotal stretch, the Gamecocks’ stingy defense held Ole Miss to just three points, all from the free throw line, in the last 7:49 of the first half. At the break, South Carolina held a 44-25 lead after holding the Rebels to 27.3 percent from the field.

It was much of the same for the Gamecocks out of the locker room, Asia Dozier hit a jumper in the lane out of the gate, and Mitchell followed with a 3 on back-to-back possessions, taking the score to 49-27 a minute into the half.

South Carolina was able to maintain its lead throughout the final period. With Davis’ second 3 of the night, the lead reached 31 points at 84-53 with 7:05 left in the game.

Tina Roy inched the Gamecocks closer to the century mark with 2:36 left at 98-64. The 34-point lead was the largest of the night. LeAnna Morrison split a pair of free throws to make the score 99-68, making it the highest scoring SEC regular-season game in South Carolina history.

Six Gamecocks reached double figures, combining for 86 of the team’s 99 points. In addition to Coates’ team-high 24, Mitchell poured in 15, Ibiam contributed 14 and Welch, Khadijah Sessions and Davis added 11 points apiece. The total was a career-high for Davis.

The Gamecocks made one more free throw than the Rebels attempted, going 32-of-41 from the line compared to Ole Miss’ 21-of-31. From the field, South Carolina hit 60.8 percent of its shots, sinking 31-of-51 attempts. Mitchell posted eight of the team’s 22 assists.

South Carolina continues conference play at Colonial Life Arena against Missouri on Sun., Feb. 2, at 3 p.m.