Jan. 26, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Markeshia Grant's 20 points led South Carolina to a 61-43 victory over Ole Miss Thursday night at Colonial Life Arena. The Gamecocks (16-5, 5-3 SEC) had a strong first half with four 3-pointers from La'Keisha Sutton, which set the pace for the rest of the game. Leading scorer and rebounder Grant hit 4-of-7 from behind the line, three of those coming in the second half to seal the Gamecocks' victory.
The seniors each carried the scoring load for a half while junior guard Ieasia Walker set the table throughout the game, finishing with a career-high seven assists on the night. Sutton had the hot hand early hitting the first two 3-pointers she took before finishing the game with a career-high five from long range. In the second half, it was Grant who stepped up to stop an Ole Miss run with back-to-back buckets as she added 11 of her 20 points in the period.
"It was great for [Markeshia] and [La'Keisha] from a confidence standpoint," South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. "La'Keisha has been shooting the ball well [this week]. Markeshia has been slowly getting back to taking her shots, her normal shots where she's not thinking about it, just taking shots within our offense. It was one of the keys coming into this game, to take shots within our offense, and we did a pretty good job with that."
It was good ball movement that set the tone early for the Gamecock offense, getting Sutton open for her early 3s and getting the crowd on its feet right away. Defensively, the Gamecocks did what they do best, harass the ball and secure the glass, both of which had the Rebels on their heels. Clicking on all cylinders, South Carolina opened up a 26-7 lead with eight minutes left in the half.
After Sutton's 3s opened the game, Charenee Stephens hit a layup and Grant picked up a transition layup for a 10-2 advantage. Ole Miss' leading scorer Valencia McFarland hit a pull-up jumper to briefly stem the tide, but Sutton went right back to work. A 3 from the right corner set her up for a free-throw line jumper on the next possession. The Gamecock defense did not let up either, forcing turnovers on four of the Rebels' next five possessions, the last two of which precipitated Sutton's fourth 3 and a jumper from Walker. Grant's long jumper from the top of the arc closed out the surge.
Trailing 35-16 at the break, Ole Miss stormed out in the second half, applying a half-court trap to disrupt the South Carolina offense. The Rebels' renewed effort on the glass also helped them cut their deficit to eight points at 45-37 with 13:36 left to play.
Grant took control, righting her team with a 3-pointer from the right wing and adding a transition layup to stretch the advantage back to double digits at 50-37. Ole Miss would get not closer down the stretch as South Carolina cruised to its 16th win of the season.
Grant scored 11 of her 20 points in the second half, while 14 of Sutton's 17 came in the first stanza. The Gamecocks' hot shooting from long range, 50.0 percent (9-of-18) was its best of the season. Nine made 3s tied the season high and the most in the Staley era. Sutton's five 3s reset the career high she established just four days ago with four at Vanderbilt. South Carolina won the battle of the boards 35-32 and turned 19 Rebel turnovers into 20 points.
The Gamecocks are back in action at Colonial Life Arena on Sun., Jan. 29, against Mississippi State. Tipoff for the second game of the homestand is set for 2 p.m.
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