Gamecocks Fall to Wildcats in Regular-Season Finale
March 1, 2009
COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina had a two-point lead at the half but could not stop a hot-shooting Kentucky team in the second period as the Wildcats posted a 70-53 victory this afternoon at Colonial Life Arena. The 3,187 fans that came to send the 2008-09 Gamecock Senior Class out in style saw a hard-fought first half before a 17-4 Kentucky run early in the second half established a decisive lead for the visiting team. Senior C.J. Pace was the Gamecocks' leader with 14 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots in the final home game of her career.
The Gamecocks struggled shooting the ball throughout the game, but took a 29-27 lead into halftime thanks to offensive rebounding limiting their turnovers. Riding the emotion of the Senior Day ceremony prior to tipoff, South Carolina built a lead early in the game as Jewel May netted the first two buckets of the game. The Gamecocks stayed focused on the interior game and had a 13-8 lead at the 11:39 mark after Charenee Stephens hit a bucket on the left block after an inside handoff from Courtney Newton. The lead grew to six on a pair of free throws from Lauren Falohun and a 3-pointer from Pace.
Just more than midway through the half, the Wildcats got a spark with a 3-pointer from Carly Morrow. It was the beginning of a 10-0 surge that would put Kentucky on top 22-18 with just over five minutes left in the period. A Lakeisha Sutton drive stopped the spurt, and, following a Wildcat free throw, Stephens hit another short shot from the right block to cut the lead to one. Samone Kennedy picked Carly Ormerod's pocket on the next trip down the court, and her resulting layup put the Gamecocks back on top 24-23 with 2:46 left before the break.
Back-to-back buckets from UK's Victoria Dunlap gave the Wildcats a three-point lead with inside a minute in the half. On the next possession, Pace snagged a pair of offensive rebounds and, after being fould on the last one, hit a pair of free throws. A Kentucky turnover gave the Gamecocks a final possession, which Pace used to punctuate the half with a 3-pointer from the top of the key to send her team into the locker room with the lead.
The teams traded mini-runs early in the first half, trading the lead six times in the first five minutes. Kennedy's runner in the lane was the last bucket of the stretch, giving the Gamecocks a 40-39 lead with 15:18 left to play. Four consecutive Gamecock turnovers helped the Wildcats end the back-and-forth and use a 9-0 run, during which they scored inside, from 3-point range, at the free throw line and on an offensive rebound, to establish a 48-40 lead just three minutes later.
Stephens hit a shot from the right block, but Dunlap answered quickly on the other end. Another Kennedy driving bucket looked to right the ship for South Carolina, but Eleia Roddy scored six of the game's next eight points to further extend the Kentucky lead. Her final move on the left block put the Wildcats up 58-44 with 7:39 on the clock, but the lead would not be in jeopardy again.
Pace was the only Gamecock in double figures, and five of her seven rebounds came on the offensive end. The Wildcats out-rebounded the Gamecocks 33-31 with Carolina snagging 16 of its boards on the offensive glass. Newton was the leading passer with four assists.
South Carolina now prepares for the SEC Tournament, in which the Gamecocks are the No. 11 seed and will face No. 6 seed Mississippi State at 10 p.m. (ET) on Thu., Mar. 5.