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Gamecocks Rip Down 65-60 OT Win at #25/22 Vanderbilt


NASHVILLE – South Carolina needed extra time but held off a charging No. 25/22 Vanderbilt team to score a 65-60 victory Sunday afternoon at Memorial Gymnasium. The Gamecocks (15-5, 4-3 SEC) snapped a three-game losing streak with what had previously delivered a seven-game win streak – stingy, disciplined defense, aggressive offense and gutty plays when they counted most. Senior La’Keisha Sutton finished with 20 points, including a career-high four 3-pointers, and five of the team’s nine points in overtime.

The second half of the game was in fits and starts for both teams. The Commodores came out strong on the glass in the second half and closed within one just five minutes into the period. South Carolina’s forwards went to work with Ashley Bruner hitting 1-of-2 from the free throw line then adding a bucket off a hard Sutton drive to stretch the lead back to six points at 41-35 with 11:45 to play. Four aggressive points from Sutton, a traditional three-point play from Aleighsa Welch and another 3-pointer from Markeshia Grant gave the Gamecocks a 51-42 cushion, their largest of the game, with 5:56 to go.

The Commodores were not finished, though, putting together a 12-6 run that brought them within a basket of the Gamecocks, with five of those 12 points coming at the free throw line. Jasmine Lister’s pair closed the gap to 54-52 with 3:46 to play. South Carolina was called for an offensive foul on its next possession, but the defense answered with a Welch block to stop Christina Foggie’s driving layup. The Commodores picked up a steal on the other end, but Ieasia Walker sprinted back to swat away what looked like an easy transition jumper from Foggie. The Gamecocks quickly turned that defense into offense as Walker snagged the rebound and found Sutton for a transition layup to stretch the lead back to four points with 2:25 to play.

Stephanie Holzer put back a missed 3-pointer to cut the lead in half, and the Gamecocks could not connect on the other end. Foggie’s free throws with 24 seconds to play knotted the game at 56-56. South Carolina set up for a final play, but could not get a shot off against strong interior defense by Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks defended the turnover, however, and sent the game into overtime.

In the extra period, Sutton took command immediately with her career-high fourth 3-pointer of the night. Vanderbilt answered with a traditional three-point play on the other end, but Sutton did not let up, delivering a pair of free throws for a 61-59 South Carolina lead. Both teams came up empty on their next possessions, but Tiffany Clarke hit a free throw on the next trip up the floor to cut the lead in half with 2:53 to play. After Grant buried a pair of free throws, neither team could find a rhythm on offense as defense took over. For the Gamecocks, Welch helped put the game away with a huge rebound on either end to maintain the lead. From there, South Carolina hit just enough free throws and played lock down defense, including Walker who drew an offensive foul from Stephanie Holzer after getting caught on the block with the Commodores’ forward with less than 30 seconds to play.

The Gamecock offense was not efficient early, but 3-point shooting from Sutton and Grant helped South Carolina stay within striking distance of the Commodores through the first 12 minutes. In the final eight minutes, the tide changed in favor of the Gamecocks.

South Carolina closed the first half with a 16-2 run as the defense routinely forced the Commodores to take tough shots at the end of the shot clock. On the other end of the floor, the forwards started the run as Charenee Stephens hit from the left block and Welch added the next three points on the next two possessions to pull within 19-16 with 5:05 left in the half. Vandy put back an offensive rebound to briefly interrupt the run, but the Gamecock defense did not allow anything else in the half. Walker hit a pair of free throws, and Sancheon White drained a 3-pointer from the left sideline to tie the game at 21-12 with 2:37 left before halftime. A pair of Vanderbilt turnovers led to a traditional three-point play from Stephens and a buzzer-beating deep 3-pointer from Sutton, which sent the team to the locker rooms with a 27-21 Gamecock advantage.

Welch and Grant joined Sutton in double figures with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Welch’s nine rebounds led the team as did Sutton’s six assists. The Gamecocks committed just 14 turnovers while handing out 14 assists and blocking seven shots. For the second time in as many meetings, South Carolina held the nation’s most prolific 3-point shooting team well below its average as the Commodores hit just 3-of-17 from beyond the arc.



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