Feb. 27, 2005
Oxford, Miss. - - Ole Miss claimed a 57-51 win over South Carolina Sunday at Tad Smith Coliseum.
With the win, Ole Miss improved to 18-9 overall and 8-6 in the SEC, while the Gamecocks dipped to 8-20 overall and 2-12 in the league.
Carolina played Sunday's game without the services of the starting backcourt tandem of Lauren Simms and Lea Fabbri. Neither player made the trip to Oxford, as Simms remains out with a knee injury and Fabbri flew home to Croatia Saturday afternoon to be with her family after the passing of her father.
With Simms and Fabbri unavailable, the Gamecocks looked to slow down the pace of the game. The strategy worked, as Carolina held a 47-46 lead with 5:07 remaining in the game, thanks largely to its stifling defense. The Gamecocks, who entered the game ranked third in the SEC in field goal percentage defense, limited the number of shots that Ole Miss was able to take, and in doing so, suffocated the Lady Rebel offense, which entered the game ranked among the top-20 nationally in scoring offense.
"The thing that really impresses me about Mississippi is how hard they play," South Carolina head coach Susan Walvius said. "They are a very good team and they create good opportunities for themselves because they are patient in their execution."
A pair of free throws from Ole Miss star Armintie Price, coupled with another Price score on the next possession gave the Lady Rebels a 50-47 lead with 3:48 remaining. Ole Miss' Amber Terrell converted on the front end of a one-and-one to open the lead to 51-47 before Iva Sliskovic answered with a field goal of her own to bring the score to 51-49 with 3:03 left. A bucket by Lady Rebel guard Ashley Awkward put Ole Miss back on top by four before Melanie Johnson knocked down a 10-foot floater with 1:39 remaining to narrow the gap to 53-51.
Awkward and Jada Mincy each knocked down one of their two free throws to give the Lady Rebels a 55-51 lead and seal the win. Stacy Booker had a chance to cut the lead to one with a three-pointer from the corner, but her attempt hit the side of the backboard and Ole Miss secured the rebound. Forced to foul, the Gamecocks sent Carletta Brown to the line. She made both of her attempts to put the finishing touches on the Lady Rebels' 57-51 win.
Johnson came off the bench to star for the Gamecocks, scoring 15 points and grabbing eight rebounds. In addition, Johnson finished Sunday's game with four blocks, and in doing so, moved into sole possession of third place on the Gamecocks' single-season blocked shots list. Johnson scored in double figures for the first time in an SEC game since scoring 12 points against Mississippi State on January 6.
Booker, who averaged 17 points and nine rebounds as a shooting guard in Carolina's last two games, was forced to assume point guard duties Sunday, turning in an eight-point, six rebound, five assist performance. Price led Ole Miss with 19 points and 16 rebounds.
"I am proud of our team. They played hard," Walvius said. "We weren't perfect, but we are a young team and we showed flashes of brilliance today."
The Gamecocks return to action when they compete for the SEC's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament next week at tne Bi-Lo Center in Greenville. All of Carolina's games at the SEC tournament will be televised live by Fox Sports South. Each game will also be broadcast live on WISW-AM Radio with Andy Demetra handling play-by-play and Robin Muller providing analysis.
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