Balanced Attack Leads South Carolina Past Kentucky, 79-71
Jan. 14, 2010
COLUMBIA, S.C. - A second-straight game with five players scoring in double figures delivered a 79-71 win for South Carolina over Kentucky in SEC women's basketball action Thursday night at Colonial Life Arena. The Gamecocks (9-7, 2-2 SEC) dominated the interior, scoring 52 of their 79 points in the paint and out-rebounding the Wildcats (13-3, 1-2 SEC) 40-29. Freshman center Kelsey Bone led the five-pronged attack with 23 points on 11-of-14 shooting to go with her game-high nine rebounds.
While the teams felt each other out with short spurts early, the Gamecocks were the first to truly assert themselves with a 10-0 surge just before midway through the first half, turning a two-point deficit into an eight-point lead. In a preview of what was to come, the points came from four different sources and in a variety of ways. Charenee Stephens knotted the game 14-14 with a move on the left block to kick things off. Freshman guard Ieasia Walker dialed up a deep 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock to put the Gamecocks back on top. Valerie Nainima drove for a reverse layup, and Jewel May capped the spurt with a traditional three-point play, hitting her bucket from the left block in transition.
The Wildcats got off the mat with a 3-pointer from Amani Franklin, which cranked up the defensive pressure. Capitalizing on three straight South Carolina turnovers, Kentucky pulled ahead 23-22 with on a baseline drive from A'dia Mathies.
The teams traded the lead two more times before the Gamecock interior uncorked a 9-3 rally to close out the half. Stephens netted the first three points of the surge, and Bone added a pair of moves, one from each block, to send the Gamecocks into the locker room with a 37-33 lead.
In the second half, Kentucky did most of its early damage at the free throw line. Coming down slightly after hitting 61.5 percent from the field in the first half, the Gamecocks struggled to score the ball early in the second period. The Wildcats found the going difficult down low, but were able to knot the game 39-39 less than two minutes into the period behind free throws.
With the game even again, the Gamecock guards re-ignited the offense. La'Keisha Sutton stuck back her own miss to edge South Carolina back in front, then doubled her team's lead with a hard drive to the basket. Walker converted a three-point play, and Nainima added a free throw to stretch the margin to 47-39 with 16:13 left to play.
It took another five minutes for the Gamecocks to extend their lead to double digits, but Samone Kennedy's runner in the lane did just that at 57-47 with 11:33 on the clock. Once there, South Carolina held its edge, although a late string of 3-pointers from Mathies looked to be a threat to the victory. Steady free throw shooting staved off the Wildcats in the waning minutes.
Nainima joined Bone in double figures with 14 points to go with seven assists. Stephens added 11 points and eight rebounds, while Walker and Kennedy each added 10 points. South Carolina shot 55.4 percent from the field - its second-consecutive game hitting over 50 percent - while holding Kentucky to just 38.5 percent accuracy. The Wildcats' reputation for forcing turnovers had the Gamecocks vigilant with the ball, committing just 18, compared to the 26.6 UK opponents had been averaging this season.
The Gamecocks continue their short homestand on Sun., Jan. 17, with a 3 p.m. game against Auburn.