Gamecocks Push Past Illinois 71-52
Nov. 11, 2011
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - South Carolina used a stifling defense and an aggressive offensive plan in the second half as the Gamecocks topped Illinois 71-52 in women's basketball action at Assembly Hall Friday afternoon. South Carolina out-scored Illinois 40-28 in the second half, including a 21-4 run midway through the period. Junior Ashley Bruner netted 12 of her team-high 14 points in the second half to lead three Gamecocks in double figures. She also pulled down a team-high six rebounds.
Both teams struggled with turnovers in the first half, and the Gamecocks got things under control first behind senior Markeshia Grant. Picking up right where she left off in the exhibition game, her 3-pointer from the right sideline gave the Gamecocks a 9-6 lead they would not relinquish in the period.
South Carolina opened the second half with an 11-4 surge keyed by staunch defense and aggressive drives to the basket. Charenee Stephens hit her first two points of the night on a short jumper on the right block. The Illinois scored all four of its points on Kersten Magrum free throws on the ensuing possessions. Senior La'Keisha Sutton stormed back with a driving layup, and Ashley Bruner and Ieasia Walker each added a free throw. A drive by Illinois' Lydia McCully brought her team within seven, but a traditional three-point play by Bruner and a transition layup from Sutton stretched it out to 42-31.
From there, the Gamecocks were rolling. Sutton hit a pair of free throws, and Bruner added a bucket from the left block. A long jumper from Ebony Wilson made it a 48-31 advantage with 12:50 left to play. The defense cranked up another notch, forcing the Illini into six turnovers in their next eight, which only yielded one point. The Gamecock offense scored in almost every conceivable way during the stretch. Bruner hit from the left block, Wilson added a put back and Aleighsa Welch picked up her first points as a Gamecock with a transition layup. Stephens flashed across the lane for a bucket on a baseline out-of-bounds play, followed by Tina Roy's first 3-pointer in the Garnet and Black. Fellow freshman Elem Ibiam closed out the surge with a move on the left block to put South Carolina up 65-35 with seven minutes to go.
The coaching staff took advantage of the significant cushion, getting the five newcomers significant minutes in the game. While the move allowed Illinois to cut the lead in half, but Sutton came back in the game to steady the lineup and allow the Gamecocks to cruise to the victory.
Grant and Sutton joined Bruner in double figures with 11 and 10, respectively. The duo also handed out three assists each, as did junior Sancheon White. The Gamecocks limited Illinois' leading scorer from last season, Karisma Penn, to just 10 points before she fouled out of the contest. South Carolina out-rebounded Illinois 34-32 and shot 42.1 percent from the field.
The Gamecocks play their first game in Colonial Life Arena on Mon., Nov. 14. Tipoff against Alabama A&M is set for 7 p.m.