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January 13, 2013
VIDEO: Ieasia Walker
VIDEO: Dawn Staley
ATHENS, Ga. - Despite one field goal in nearly 14 minutes, despite 24 turnovers, despite being 0-for-11 from the 3-point line, South Carolina still had a chance to win. The only question was the usual standard - play for the tie, or go for the win?
In the end, the No. 18 Gamecocks didn't really have a choice. They had to try something, anything, to get that elusive bucket, and they got an open look. Ieasia Walker saw Ashley Bruner matched up one-on-one on the block, and gave her the ball, and Bruner backed into her defender, took a dribble, slipped around and drove.
The shot rainbowed over the hole, Georgia rebounded and won on Sunday, 42-40. USC (14-3, 2-2 SEC) could only look at what it didn't do, despite another outstanding defensive day.
"The game came down to being able to make plays," coach Dawn Staley said. "They were able to make some plays down the stretch with (Jasmine) Hassell and we weren't."
In what's becoming the theme for the season, the Gamecocks did everything they wanted to defensively, holding a Georgia team that had scored 95 points in its last game to 42, with one 3-pointer, no points from Anne Marie Armstrong and forcing 21 turnovers. But just like many other games, USC simply couldn't score.
Aleighsa Welch had 19 points. Nobody else had more than seven. Bruner, who has to be effective in the post for the Gamecocks to succeed, had four. USC's best player of late, Sancheon White, had two. The Gamecocks' bench, which had been beginning to solidify, combined for two points.
Eight points were left on the free-throw line. USC threw the ball away a whopping 24 times, leading to 16 Georgia points. The Gamecocks again owned the glass, 37-28, but had a mere 12 offensive boards to limit their second chances.
"I think we were just troubled by the zone," said Walker, who won every hustle play in the game but had to settle for a "good effort." "Kind of forcing shots, and I don't think we were ready to knock down the outside shots, which they forced us to do. That's not our strongest point right now."
That's accurate. After Bruner rebounded a missed White 3-pointer for a 34-31 lead with 13:49 to play, the Gamecocks were held without a field goal until Tiffany Mitchell scored with 1:04 to play.
In that time, USC made two free throws, and missed three. Georgia, which was held to almost as rotten of a shooting day as the Gamecocks, put it together during that stretch and took the lead.
The dagger came from Hassell, who was the Lady Bulldogs' only source of offense all day. She took a feed from Armstrong and threw in another shot, some of the last of her 19 points, and Georgia led 41-36. The Gamecocks fought back to get within 42-40 after Hassell missed the second of two free throws, but the final shot didn't fall, just as most of the previous ones didn't.
"We wanted to actually run it for an outside shot, but I saw Ashley open on the inside," Walker said. "She made a play, but kind of overshot it."
Staley thought if the game had been played in Columbia, USC would have won. She also knew that for some reason, zone defenses are giving the Gamecocks fits right now. USC became a part of history - Sunday's 42 points were the lowest amount that Georgia has ever scored in a victory, beating the previous mark of 43, set in the Lady Bulldogs' very first game - but wasn't feeling too happy about it.
"I think we turned down some shots that we probably should have taken," Staley said. "I guess part of it is their defense, part of it is us not having confidence to just shoot it. Not even make it, just to shoot it. But it's going to come down to the same thing - being able to make plays and being able to make shots.
"Our defense is fine. Our offense has to catch up a little bit."
NOTE: Welch took a hard bump to the head and left the game late in the second half. A team official said that she should be OK, and Staley said that because Welch was fighting a slight cold anyway, the concussion tests will have to be held for a little while. "She should be fine," Staley said. "Our training staff is magical. They'll figure out what's wrong."
Team SEC Overall
Kentucky 4-0 16-1
Tennessee 4-0 13-3
Georgia 3-1 15-2
Texas A&M 3-1 13-5
Vanderbilt 3-1 13-4
Auburn 2-2 13-4
Florida 2-2 13-5
LSU 2-2 11-6
South Carolina 2-2 14-3
Alabama 1-3 11-6
Arkansas 1-3 13-4
Missouri 1-3 12-6
Mississippi State 0-4 8-9
Ole Miss 0-4 7-10
Georgia 42, South Carolina 40
Alabama 83, Ole Miss 75
Vanderbilt 78, Arkansas 58
Texas A&M 78, Auburn 56
Tennessee 78, Florida 75 (OT)
Kentucky 69, Missouri 43
LSU 62, Mississippi State 42
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