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Gamecocks Fall to No. 11/12 Penn State, 55-50


COLUMBIA, S.C. – Despite 25 offensive rebounds that helped South Carolina to 34 more shots, No. 11/12 Penn State escaped Colonial Life Arena with a 55-50 victory in women’s basketball action Sunday afternoon. The Gamecocks led much of the game, including an eight-point margin in the final six minutes, before the Lady Lions’ frontcourt wore them down. Nine of junior Ashley Bruner’s career-high 18 rebounds came on the offensive end, and junior Ieasia Walker added 15 points and five steals to the Gamecocks’ solid team effort.

“We knew [Penn State’s height] would be their advantage,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. “They certainly took up a lot of space. I thought our kids fought. I thought we did as best we could with the height advantage. We look forward to playing them because we know we’re going to be challenged in that way.”

Penn State’s offense was efficient early in the game for a quick 8-5 lead, but the Gamecocks’ aggressive guard play sparked a 9-2 rally that put the Gamecocks up 14-10 five minutes into the game. Walker got the spurt going with a pull-up jump shot, and La’Keisha Sutton put back her own miss for a 9-8 Gamecock lead. After Talia East hit a jumper in the lane for the Lady Lions, Bruner scored and Sutton drilled a three from the right wing for a 14-10 South Carolina advantage.

Missed shots and turnovers led to a three-minute offensive stall for both teams. The Lady Lions righted the ship first, scoring the games next six points to reclaim the lead midway through the period. Turnovers on Penn State’s next two possessions let the Gamecocks get back in the scoring column. Sutton’s free throws broke a 16-16 tie and after three more Penn State turnovers Markeshia Grant’s transition jumper from the right wing put the Gamecocks up 20-18 with 3:26 left in the half.  Penn State closed the first half on a 10-2 run to take a 26-22 lead into the locker room.

The Gamecocks started the second half with two free throws from Charenee Stephens and a 3-pointer from Grant to take a 27-26 lead. Penn State quickly answered back with six straight points, capitalizing on a pair of South Carolina turnovers. The Gamecocks worked inside-out to tie the game at 34-34 with 14 minutes left to play as Walker hit a driving layup and spinning jump shot followed by a put back from Stephens and a Bruner free throw.

Walker’s big 3-pointer from the right corner kicked off a 16-6 Gamecock surge that spanned the next nine minutes. Aleighsa Welch added two more points, and Walker hit another three to give South Carolina a 42-36 advantage. Tina Roy came off the bench with back-to-back buckets, and Sancheon White and Bruner combined for three more points to give the Gamecocks a 50-42 lead with 5:47 left to play.

After the Gamecocks had handled Penn State’s height advantage through much of the game, the Lady Lions ramped up the interior defense down the stretch. South Carolina continued to attack the basket but found open looks more difficult to come by, which switched momentum into Penn State’s favor. Maggie Lucas netted eight of the Lady Lions’ final 13 points to propel her team to the victory.

South Carolina struggled with offensive efficiency, hitting just 25.0 percent from the field, compared to 50.0 percent for Penn State. The Gamecocks out-rebounded the taller Lady Lions, however, 40-39, including a 25-5 advantage in offensive boards. Defensively, South Carolina forced 23 turnovers, which it turned into 17 points.

Walker was the only Gamecock in double figures, but Bruner narrowly missed her first double-double of the season with nine points. Bruner’s 18 rebounds were a game high, as were her nine offensive boards. Sutton handed out a team-high three assists.

The South Carolina women’s basketball team continues its three-game home stand next week, opening and closing the Thanksgiving weekend of Gamecock home events with a Wed., Nov. 23 matchup with College of Charleston at 7 p.m. and a Sun., Nov. 27 contest with Presbyterian at 1 p.m.



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