Columbia, S.C. -
The South Carolina women's basketball team claimed a 77-66 win over Ole Miss in front of 5,227 fans at the Colonial Center Sunday, marking the Gamecocks' fifth win in their last six games.
With the win, the Gamecocks improved to 15-9 overall and drew even at 6-6 in the Southeastern Conference. The Lady Rebels dipped to 14-12 overall and 4-9 in the SEC. With Vanderbilt losing an 81-63 decision to Georgia in Nashville earlier in the day, Carolina moved into a tie for sixth place in the SEC standings with the Commodores.
Junior Melanie Johnson sparked an 11-0 run early in the second half that turned a 38-33 Gamecock advantage to a 49-33 edge. During that deciding span, Johnson scored six points, grabbed four rebounds, blocked a shot and had an assist. The Barnwell native finished with her third double-double of the year, posting team-high totals of 17 points and 13 boards in the game.
Ole Miss star Armintie Price scored 16 points and grab 10 rebounds to lead the Lady Rebels, with Carla Bartee chipping in with 14 points and Ashley Johnson adding 13 points of her own.
Though Ole Miss' quick hands and pesky defense on the perimeter resulted in 25 Carolina turnovers, the Gamecocks were able to make a living inside, converting on 51.8 percent from the field on 29 of 56 shooting. Carolina finished the game with a 42-18 advantage over Ole Miss in points in the paint.
After opening up a 59-47 lead after a jumper by Brionna Dickerson with 7:43 remaining, it appeared as if the Gamecocks had the contest in hand, but the Lady Rebels scrapped back and drew to within five points at 63-59 with under four minutes left. A clutch three-pointer from the corner by Shannel Harris followed by a defensive stand and a fast-break layup by Lakesha Tolliver expanded the Carolina lead to 68-59 with 2:41 remaining.
With point guard Lea Fabbri saddled with foul trouble and eventually fouling out of the game, junior Stacy Booker assumed point guard duties and finished with a season-high six assists. Tolliver added a career-high 16 points to further the Gamecocks' cause.
After a slow start on the offensive end of the court, Carolina's defense kept the Gamecocks in it, as Carolina held Ole Miss to 4-of-18 shooting from the field to start the game (22.2 percent). The Gamecocks took a 29-25 lead into the locker room at halftime. Carolina drained 13 of its 26 attempts from the field (50.0 percent) in comparison to the Lady Rebels' 9-for-33 effort (27.3 percent) in the first half. Part of the Gamecocks' first-half success was a result of limiting Price to five points on only four field goal attempts. Price entered the game averaging 16.5 points per game.
Ole Miss and South Carolina met twice last year, with both games resulting in narrow Lady Rebel wins, as Ole Miss claimed a 57-51 win in Oxford and a 53-50 win in the opening round of the SEC Tournament.
The Gamecocks take a one-day breather before hosting Longwood College at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Colonial Center. The game will be broadcast live on WISW 1320-AM Radio in Columbia, with Andy Demetra handling play-by-play and Robin Muller providing analysis.