Gameocks Win SEC Opener Over Alabama
Jan. 1, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina picked up a 68-42 win over Alabama in the SEC women's basketball opener for both teams this afternoon at Colonial Life Arena. The Gamecocks (12-2, 1-0 SEC) used three key scoring runs to establish themselves early and stymie any comeback by the Crimson Tide (10-5, 0-1 SEC). Scoring came from all corners and the defense held an opponent to 48 points or fewer for the eighth time this season. Junior guard Ieasia Walker led the offense with 12 points, while freshman forward Aleighsa Welch pulled in a season-best 10 rebounds.
"It's very important [to start league play with a win] because wins in this league are hard to come by," South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. "There are definitely no nights off, so it's that much more important to take care of home. We put special emphasis on it because after these first five games we go on the road for a little bit. We've got to get our wins at home before we take on the rigors of being on the road in the SEC."
The Gamecocks used a 12-0 run midway through the first half to seize control after an early 6-6 tie. La'Keisha Sutton's driving layup kicked off the nearly five-minute long surge. After the defense forced a shot-clock violation, Welch dished it inside for Ashley Bruner on the block. Walker converted a transition layup to put the Gamecocks up 12-6 with 13:11 left in the half. Back-to-back Crimson Tide turnovers and solid rebounding kept the run going for South Carolina. Bruner put back a miss, and Sancheon White pulled up for a short jumper while Alabama continued to be one-and-done with shots on its possessions. Markeshia Grant drove the baseline off a baseline out-of-bounds play for an 18-6 margin with 10:32 left to play.
Both teams struggled with turnovers and shooting percentage in the second half of the period, but the Crimson Tide could not gain any ground. South Carolina took a 27-15 lead into the locker room at halftime.
After a slow offensive start to the second half, Grant went on a person 7-0 run in a one-minute span to stretch the Gamecock lead to 34-17 with 16:36 in left to play. She opened with a 3-pointer from the right side, and, after a turnover from each team in quick succession, she hit a quick jumper from the free throw line. Another defensive rebound for the Gamecocks set her up for a transition layup as South Carolina double-up the Crimson Tide 34-17.
Alabama scored five of the games next seven points, but Welch and White combined to smother a run before it could get started. Welch scored from the right block after a steal, then White turned her own steal into a breakaway layup. Alabama misfired on its next shot, and the Gamecocks found White for a 3-pointer from the right wing for a 43-22 advantage with 12:37 left to play and never looked back.
The Gamecocks shot 46.6 percent from the field for the game, including 56.0 percent in the second half. They found their range from the 3-point line in the second period, hitting 5-of-8 to help stretch out the lead. South Carolina scored 40 of its 68 points in the paint with 24 of those coming in the first half, and took advantage of a 38-22 rebounding edge to score 18 second-chance points.
All 13 players on the Gamecocks' active roster saw time in the game with 10 finding their way into the scoring column. Walker's 12 points led three Gamecocks in double figures as Grant and Tina Roy joined her with 11 and 10, respectively. Welch narrowly missed her first career double-double, scoring nine points to go with her game-high 10 rebounds. Grant added a team-high three assists to the offensive effort.
South Carolina is back in action on Thu., Jan. 5, at 7 p.m. when No. 25/21 Vanderbilt visits Colonial Life Arena.