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March 2, 2014

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – No. 4/5 South Carolina had a rare tough shooting outing in a 73-61 loss at No. 10/9 Tennessee Sunday. The Gamecocks (26-3, 14-2 SEC) shot just 38.5 percent from the field, and the Lady Vols (24-5, 13-3 SEC) won the battle of the boards 48-39 to secure the win. Junior forward Aleighsa Welch led South Carolina in scoring and rebounding, just missing out on a double-double with 16 points and nine boards.

The first half was a non-stop sprint with both teams shooting well, often through tough defense. The Lady Vols opened up an 8-2 lead before the Gamecocks got their feet under them with an 8-2 run with all eight points coming from Welch and Tiffany Mitchell. The home team answered with a 6-0 run to take a 16-10 lead just six minutes into the game.

While the track meet continued, neither team could put together another substantial run. The difference for Tennessee came from outside the arc, where Andraya Carter hit a pair after the Gamecocks defended well throughout the shot clock. The last of her 3s came just ahead of an Isabelle Harrison bucket that stretched the Lady Vols’ lead to 38-27 with 2:00 remaining in the half. Neither team could connect down the stretch, controlling the defensive glass, but Welch ended the half on a high note for the Gamecocks, hitting a tough jumper in the lane and the resulting free throw with five seconds remaining to make it a 38-30 game at the break.

The Gamecocks got good looks to open the second half, but struggled to finish around the basket, and the Lady Vols were all over the defensive boards. South Carolina continued to work, but could not put together consecutive baskets to cut into Tennessee’s lead. A deep 3-pointer from Asia Dozier at the end of the shot clock brought the Gamecocks within seven at 52-45, and, after Jasmine Jones hit just one of two free throws, Alaina Coates’ putback made it a six-point deficit with 8:41 on the clock.

Tennessee made sure the run did not continue, though, answering the surge with a 6-0 run fueled by limiting the Gamecocks to one tough shot on three straight possessions to go up 59-47 with 6:26 to play. South Carolina would get no closer down the stretch.

Three Gamecocks finished in double figures with Mitchell and Coates joining Welch with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Each had eight rebounds as well, and Coates added three blocks.

South Carolina will open play in the SEC Tournament in Duluth, Ga., on Fri., March 7, at noon, facing the winner of Thursday’s game between the eighth- and ninth-seeded teams.