Jan. 29, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Seniors La'Keisha Sutton and Markeshia Grant shined in South Carolina's 69-43 victory over Mississippi State on Sunday at Colonial Life Arena. Sutton scored 17 points, her 11th double-figure game in the last 14 outings, while Grant had 15 as the Gamecocks picked up their sixth conference win. South Carolina (17-5, 6-3 SEC) turned an eight-point halftime lead into a comfortable margin with an immediate 17-3 run in the second half.
The Gamecocks put the pressure on Mississippi State (13-8, 4-4 SEC) early in the game, forcing turnovers and getting easy buckets in the paint. The Lady Bulldogs were unable to answer as Sutton netted a jumper on a fast break, putting the Gamecocks ahead 6-2. Defensive rebounding by Ashley Bruner and Charenee Stephens allowed the Gamecocks to push the ball on offense and control the pace of the game early.
Mississippi State bounced back after Catina Bett scored in the paint as the Lady Bulldogs applied full-court pressure. The Gamecocks held their composure against the press, only turning the ball over once while continuing their success on offense. Tough defense by South Carolina limited the Bulldogs to only 11-of-28 shooting in the first half. Defensive rebounding was a big factor in fueling the Gamecocks' offense as well. Led by Bruner, the Gamecocks had a total 11 defensive rebounds and only allowed two second-chance points the entire first half.
Sutton was firing on all cylinders, leading the team in scoring and assists in the first half. With 10:20 left in the period, she assisted Bruner on a fast break layup then sank a jumper from the right side of the key. After missing a layup, Sutton stole the inbound pass and laid it up to put the Gamecocks up 20-12. Three plays later, she assisted Stephens for a layup then drove the right side for two points of her own. Sutton concluded a three-possession run where she scored or assisted on every basket with a mid-range jumper from the right side to finish off a 6-2 surge.
The Gamecocks came out in the second half with a 6-0 run on 3-pointers from Grant and Sutton to give the home team the momentum. The Lady Bulldogs answered with a layup from Martha Alwal, but the response was short lived. The Gamecocks came back with an 8-0 run off breakaway layups from Sutton and Bruner to go up 47-25, the largest lead of the game, just five minutes the half.
"We got out and got some easy buckets [early in the second half]," South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. "I thought we came out and just took open shots, shots that were natural for us."
The Lady Bulldogs' Porsha Porter hit a bucket to stem the tide, and Mississippi State got a turnover on the Gamecocks' next possession looking to rally back. But, back-to-back blocks by Bruner stymied Mississippi State's effort, and the Lady Bulldogs would not get any closer.
The Gamecocks lit up the court with a season high 49.1 field goal percentage and out-worked the Lady Bulldogs on the boards only allowing three second-chance points on the game and turning 27 defensive rebounds into 21 fast break points.
For the second-straight game, Ieasia Walker handed out over five assists, dishing six today to go with two blocked shots and a steal as she quarterbacked the Gamecocks' effort on both sides of the ball. Freshman forward Elem Ibiam was the top rebounder, pulling down six in just 14 minutes of action.
South Carolina plays its next two games on the road, beginning on Thu., Feb. 2, at #7/9 Tennessee.
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