USC Women Win At Coliseum, 66-59 Over LSU

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By Sports Department

COLUMBIA, S.C. (USC SID) -- No. 19/18 South Carolina defeated LSU 66-59 Thursday night in SEC women’s basketball action at the Carolina Coliseum. Senior Ieasia Walker netted 24 points to lead all scorers and reach the 1,000-point plateau for her career, while senior Ashley Bruner posted her second double-double of the season, including key points down the stretch. The Gamecocks (15-3, 3-2 SEC) fended off a late run by the Lady Tigers (11-7, 2-3 SEC), but a steal from Walker and steady free throw shooting in the final 2:33 delivered the seven-point victory.

“At the beginning of the game, I explained to our team that even if LSU gets up with a lead, the way that they play – they take quick shots, they get up and down in transition – we’re always going to be in the game because of their style,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. “I thought we took the hit and kept moving. We didn’t think about [the fact that] we just lost a two-point lead. We just regrouped and made plays.”

The Gamecocks came out in the first half with their usual defensive intensity, forcing LSU to turn the ball over on its first three possessions. The South Carolina pressure held the Lady Tigers at bay while the Gamecocks pushed the ball on offense. After opening scoring with two free throws, the next three South Carolina buckets came off of layups from Tiffany Mitchell, Walker and Bruner.

With 8:26 left in the half, the Gamecocks held a 19-9 advantage over LSU, but missed 3-point shots resulted in a seven-point surge by LSU. Walker then netted a 3 with the shot clock winding down to endthe Gamecocks’ five-minute scoring drought, but LSU hit back-to-back 3s to keep up the pressure. After Theresa Plaisance’s jumper from the free throw line tied the game 24-24, Bruner answered with a move on the left block off a feed from Mitchell to send South Carolina into the half leading 26-24.

To start the second half the Gamecocks came out firing on all cylinders, going on a 10-4 run to extend their lead 36-28 before LSU called a timeout. The Lady Tigers battled back to tie the game at 48-48 with 8:14 left to play. A minute later, tied at 50-50, Walker drained a 3-pointer to give the Gamecocks back the lead with 5:01 left to play. With the bucket, Walker surpassed the 1,000-career point mark, igniting the crowd. Bruner and Aleighsa Welch continued the drive with layups to stretch the lead to seven with just 3:22 on the clock.

LSU had one surge left, challenging the Gamecocks with five straight points, to pull within two with 2:33 to go, but Walker ended the threat with a steal for a layup to put the Gamecocks ahead 59-55. After a pair of missed shots, Bruner came up a big steal within the last 65 seconds, a play that resulted in free throws for Welch at the other end. Free throws by Welch and Walker extended the Gamecock lead to 63-55. On the next possession, Bruner blocked a shot by LSU’s Bianca Lutley and with 18 seconds to go, and Welch drained two free throws to seal the Gamecock victory.

South Carolina heads to Florida next, taking on the Gators in Gainesville, Fla., at 1 p.m. on Sun., Jan. 20. The Gamecocks return to Colonial Life Arena for a 7 p.m. game against No. 5/5 Kentucky on Thu., Jan. 24. South Carolina will celebrate the SEC’s “We Back Pat” initiative at the game. Stay connected to GamecocksOnline.com for more details next week.

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