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March 7, 2013
SEC WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT
Wednesday-Sunday * The Arena at Gwinnett Center * Duluth, Ga.
Game 1 -- (13) Alabama 63, (12) Mississippi State 36
*Note: Due to Ole Miss' self-imposed postseason ban, the No. 11 seed receives a bye to Thursday
Game 2 -- (9) Florida 64, (8) Arkansas 59
Game 3 -- (5) South Carolina 77, (13) Alabama 35
Game 4 -- (7) Vanderbilt vs. (10) Missouri, 6 p.m. (SPSO)
Game 5 -- (6) LSU vs. (11) Auburn, 8:30 p.m. (SPSO)
Game 6 -- (9) Florida vs. (1) Tennessee, noon (SPSO)
Game 7 -- (5) South Carolina vs. (4) Texas A&M, 2:30 p.m. (SPSO)
Game 8 -- Game 4 winner vs. (2) Kentucky, 6 p.m. (FSS)
Game 9 -- Game 5 winner vs. (3) Georgia, 8:30 p.m. (FSS)
Game 10 -- Game 7 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 4 p.m. (ESPNU)
Game 11 -- Game 9 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
Championship -- Game 11 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
VIDEO: Ashley Bruner
DULUTH, Ga. - As usual, they were just waiting for the stretch.
South Carolina's offense hasn't been consistent or a juggernaut all year, but it has been good enough to win 24 games. The No. 17 Gamecocks play each game waiting for the one moment where they can cause the turnover, get out and run and finish the fast break.
It came directly out of the halftime locker room on Thursday, and sent the Gamecocks to the SEC tournament quarterfinals.
USC sprinted to a 30-8 run to begin the second half and blasted Alabama out of The Arena at Gwinnett Center, 77-35, sending the Gamecocks (24-6) to Friday's quarterfinal matchups. There, they'll get another chance to try and top Texas A&M and former Gamecock Kelsey Bone, who scored the game-winning basket in a 50-48 Aggies win in Columbia on Feb. 10.
A&M, loser of three straight and four of five, ended up clinging to the tournament's No. 4 seed when USC lost to Missouri, and USC thus lost the tiebreaker. Knowing that a win would have meant they didn't have to play on Thursday, the Gamecocks spent the past week kicking themselves.
Now they get another chance to prove they were supposed to be there all along. While A&M will be rested, it's also a team that is playing with little confidence right now. USC sputtered in the first half against the Crimson Tide (13-18), but the run out of the second half was exactly the way that Dawn Staley wants her troops to play.
"We knew where the mismatches were," Staley said. "I don't think their post players are used to playing defense on the block and I thought we really made a conscious effort to get that ball in the paint, and allow our post players to kind of open the game for us."
Playing against a guard-heavy team, USC came out trying to emphasize its post game, and did. Aleighsa Welch and Ashley Bruner handled the scoring while the rest of the Gamecocks tried to find their shot; once Tiffany Mitchell and Khadijah Sessions each connected on a 3-pointer, it was off to the races.
Ahead 21-9, USC had to sit Welch to get a minor injury taped up, and Alabama got back into the game. The half ended 28-18, but the Gamecocks weren't panicking.
"We took good shots," point guard Ieasia Walker said. "Knocking down our open shots. To come out hitting shots on this floor on our first night here is good. We found what plays were working for us."
The second half was just channeling the ones that worked - and then watching all of them work.
Bruner spun inside and scored, then Walker drained a 3-pointer, and Mitchell hit a jumper. Alabama blinked and it was 37-18, then 44-20, then 59-26.
It only got worse. The Crimson Tide had to start launching 3-pointers to try to keep even and they weren't going to make nearly enough to stay afloat, much less stay even. Alabama quickly succumbed as USC held a 40-point lead for most of the final five minutes.
Elem Ibiam finished with a career-high 19 points while Sessions had 11 and Bruner 10. Everybody on the active roster scored at least three points; the Gamecocks dominated the boards 47-31; they took care of the ball with only eight turnovers. Alabama only shot 24.9 percent, compared to USC's robust 50.9.
"I try to come in, keep the momentum up, feed off of them," Ibiam said. "So they found me open on the inside and the shots were just falling today, so it just worked out."
It was easy, almost too easy, but USC didn't lose sight of why it's in Duluth. The Gamecocks were expected to whip Alabama and did.
Now comes the fun part.
"We came down here to win an SEC championship," Staley said. "If it's Alabama, Texas A&M is up next, we feel real good about where we are. We're focused in on what we need to do to try to get that SEC championship, something that our program has yet to achieve."
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