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Walker Leads Offense, Seals Win at Drexel


PHILADELPHIA – 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.

The 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.

The 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.

Both 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.

Walker’s 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.



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