Walker Leads Offense, Seals Win at Drexel
– Junior guard Ieasia Walker hit both ends of her 1-and-1 in the final
seven seconds to help South Carolina hold onto a 62-58 victory over
Drexel in women’s basketball action Wednesday night at John. A.
Daskalakis Athletic Center. The Gamecocks (11-2) had a 17-point
advantage midway through the second half, and held off a furious Drexel
rally to earn their 11th win of the season, the most pre-conference
play wins since 2007-08. All three of South Carolina’s starting guards
finished in double figures as Walker’s 18 led Markeshia Grant’s 17 and
La’Keisha Sutton’s 10.
The Gamecocks got off to a sluggish start
on both sides of the ball as Drexel’s penetration on offense and
defensive zone gave South Carolina problems early in the first half.
Junior Ieasia Walker kept the Gamecocks afloat early, though, scoring
seven of the team’s first nine points while assisting on the other
basket. Her final transition layup sparked a 7-2 run that brought South
Carolina within three at 17-14 with 7:36 left in the half.
Dragons scored on back-to-back possessions to build a 21-14 advantage
with just under six minutes in the period, but the Gamecocks brought
some full-court pressure, which seemed to spark their aggression on the
offensive end as well. South Carolina closed the half with a 13-5 run,
keyed first by Ashley Bruner and then finished by Walker. Sancheon
White added a pair of baskets to the surge as well, helping the
Gamecocks to their first lead of the game and a 27-26 edge at halftime.
Gamecocks wasted little time getting the offense going in the second
half, putting 14 points on the board in the first four minutes of the
period. Again pressure defense sparked the surge, during which
Markeshia Grant accounted for half the offensive output. She opened the
run with a putback, and Walker stretched the lead to five with a layup
off a steal. Drexel’s Kamile Nacickaite hit a free throw, but Grant
answered with another layup off a steal as the Gameocks applied an
aggressive trap just over center court. Tyler Hale hit the Dragons’
next two baskets, but the Drexel defense could not stop Grant, who
buried a 3-pointer from the top of the arc for a 36-29 South Carolina
lead with 17:38 left to play.
Sutton took over after Charenee
Stephens hit a pair of free throws, scoring the next five points on a
pair of circus shots after getting fouled. Hollie Marshon brought the
Dragons back within 10 at 43-33 with a long jumper from the right side,
but by that time the Gamecock guards were in control. Grant hit a pair
of free-throw line jumpers, and Walker added a short jumper from the
baseline to extend it to a 49-34 game. Taylor Wooten interrupted the
surge briefly with a layup, but the lead quickly went back to 17 points
on a free throw from Ashley Bruner and another traditional three-point
play from Sutton.
Trailing 36-53 with 9:59 to play, Drexel put
together an impressive 17-2 run, highlighted by solid rebounding and
capped by a pair of tough 3-pointers from Nacickaite to bring her team
with a basket at 55-53 with 4:14 to play. With the Dragon defense back
in its active zone, Sutton went into playmaker mode, setting up Bruner
for a bucket from the right block with a hard drive to the lane. The
senior guard picked up her 300th career assist on the basket and, after
Drexel misfired on the other end, she followed it with another assist
on Grant’s 3-pointer from the top of the arc at the end of the shot
clock to put the Gamecocks up 60-53 with 2:12 on the clock.
teams failed to connect on their next possessions, and Marisa Crane
made it a 60-56 game with a 3 from the right wing with 44 seconds to
go. South Carolina missed on the front end of a 1-and-1 opportunity,
but, following a Drexel timeout, the defense forced Crane to the
baseline under the Gamecocks’ basket where she misfired on a pass to
give the ball back to the Gamecocks with 19 seconds to play. Another
missed free throw and defensive rebound put the ball back in Drexel’s
hands. Mershon was fouled looking to drive to the basket and hit both
her free throws to pull within two with seven seconds to play. Crane
fouled Walker quickly after the Gamecocks’ inbounded the ball, and the
junior guard buried both her attempts to make it a two-possession game.
18 points were her season high, and she added four assists and four
steals to her impressive effort. Sutton became the 11th Gamecock to
hand out 300 assists while also scoring at least 1,000 points in her
career. Stephens and Sutton shared team-high rebounding honors with
five apiece as the Gamecocks out-rebounded the Dragons 32-28.