March 17, 2006
Cincinnati, Ohio - The South Carolina women's basketball team saw its season come to an end with a 70-65 overtime defeat at the hands of Xaver in first-round action at the Women's NIT played at the Cintas Center Friday. Carolina finished the season with a 17-12 overall record, while the Musketeers improved to 21-8 with the win.
Xavier was able to get to the free throw line repeatedly in the contest and converted on 22 of its 27 attempts from the charity stripe, while the Gamecocks weren't able to get to the line near as much, and didn't cash in when they got there, finishing 6-for-12 from the line.
Carolina forward Melanie Johnson lead all scorers with 21 points and posted her third consecutive double-double by adding a game-high 10 rebounds as well. Johnson had a double-double in five of Carolina's last eight games. Lauren Simms provided a spark in the second half, finishing with six points and six steals. Tara Boothe led five Xavier players in double figures with 18 points and seven rebounds.
Though the Gamecocks held a very visible height advantage over the Musketeers, Xavier was no stranger to large teams from the SEC, as the Musketeers claimed a 60-58 win over an Auburn team whose size exceeds that of the Gamecocks on December 2 in Auburn.
South Carolina dominated Xavier on the offensive side of the court in the early going, opening up a 15-7 advantage with all but two of the Gamecocks' points coming from inside the paint. The Musketeers settled down from that point, however, and narrowed South Carolina's lead to 30-28 going into the locker room at halftime.
The Gamecocks opened the second half with an 8-0 run on the strength of their defense, as guard Lauren Simms hounded Xavier's Miranda Green into a pair of turnovers at the top of the key that led to easy South Carolina layups in transition. The Gamecock defense was also to credit for a five-second call against Suntana Granderson that led to another Carolina bucket that expanded the Gamecock advantage to 38-28 with 16:36 remaining.
A rash of Carolina turnovers allowed Xavier to get right back into the game, as the Musketeers tied the game at 42 after Jerri Taylor drained a three-pointer at the 10:18 mark. The two teams essentially traded baskets for the next seven minutes, as they were deadlocked at 54 before Shannel Harris drained a clutch jumper from the right corner with 1:31 remaining in the game to give Carolina a 56-54 lead.
The Gamecocks got a defensive stand on Xavier's next possession, but an over-the-back call on Iva Sliskovic while crashing the offensive glass sent Candyce Bingham to the free throw line for a one-and-one situation. She drained both free throws to tie the game. Melanie Johnson missed a jump shot with 20 seconds remaining, giving Xavier the ball with a chance to win the game with the shot clock off. With time winding down, Tara Boothe dribbled the ball off her foot and the loose ball was recovered by Lauren Simms, who dashed down the court, but missed a contested layup at the buzzer, sending the game into overtime.
The Musketeers opened up a 66-61 advantage in overtime before Simms drained a free-throw line jumper with 1:10 remaining. After a defensive stop, Simms was fouled and sunk a pair of free throws to cut the Xavier lead to 66-65 with just under a minute left. Xavier's Jerri Taylor responded by getting to the rim and drawing a foul on Iva Sliskovic with 51.7 seconds remaining. She drained both of her free throw attempts, and following a missed shot from Lakesha Tolliver, the Gamecocks were forced to foul Boothe, who knocked down a pair of free throws to seal the win for Xavier.
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