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March 7, 2013
NO. 17 SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (24-6)
NO. 19 TEXAS A&M AGGIES (21-9)
What: Third round, SEC tournament
When: 2:30 p.m. Friday
Where: The Arena at Gwinnett Center, Duluth, Ga.
Tickets: Available at the box office
South Carolina's probable starters: G Ieasia Walker 5-8 Sr. (9.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg); G Sancheon White 5-10 Sr. (4.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg); G Tiffany Mitchell 5-9 Fr. (9.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg); F Aleighsa Welch 6-0 So. (12.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg); F Ashley Bruner 6-0 Sr. (9.7 ppg, 7.6 rpg)
Texas A&M's probable starters: G Courtney Walker 5-8 Fr. (10.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg); G Adrienne Pratcher 5-7 Sr. (9.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg); F/G Courtney Williams 6-1 Fr. (5.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg); F Kristi Bellock 6-1 Sr. (9.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg); C Kelsey Bone 6-4 Jr. (17.3 ppg, 9.7 rpg)
Next game: The winner plays the Florida-Tennessee winner at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
VIDEO: Ashley Bruner
VIDEO: Khadijah Sessions
DULUTH, Ga. - Four of South Carolina's six losses this season have been by either four or two points. The Gamecocks can't get them back, but they can maybe get a bit of payback in the SEC tournament.
The first chance is here, and perhaps against the one team that USC wants to beat above the rest.
The Gamecocks and Texas A&M square off at 2:30 p.m. today in the SEC tournament quarterfinals, USC seeking its second straight trip to the tournament semifinals and A&M trying to break a three-game losing streak. The Gamecocks finished just under the Aggies in the tournament seeding, a loss at Missouri knocking them out of the fourth seed and two-round tournament bye that went to A&M, but the only thing USC and its fans are thinking of is payback of another kind.
One, the Aggies beat USC 50-48 on Feb. 10 in Columbia. Two, the Aggie that scored the game-winning bucket was former USC star Kelsey Bone.
Bone's bucket was the game-winner, but USC mostly beat itself that night. The Gamecocks missed an incredible 23 of 37 shots five feet or closer from the rim, and missed 12-of-24 free throws. To lose by two with those numbers was a burr under the saddle.
USC gets a chance to one-up the Aggies, and in a tournament setting, this time.
"I know last time I was really hyped up, but this time I want to settle down and take my time and make her have to score in different ways, other than what she's used to," forward Ashley Bruner said of Bone. "I'm looking forward to the matchup, the physicality ... I'm just ready for this."
Bone scored 13 points against USC on Feb. 10 while Bruner had nine. Ieasia Walker led the team with 16 that day.
This time around, the Aggies seem to have no confidence, after stumbling to the finish line. Meanwhile, USC is coming off a 42-point roasting of Alabama in its first tournament game, led by Elem Ibiam's 19 points. To have Ibiam at her peak to also go against Bone will be ideal.
"I think it will be crucial," Ibiam said. "We have to get defensive stops early. Also, on the offensive boards, make sure we're making plays."
I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW: Ibiam played without the plastic face shield that she had been sporting to protect her broken nose and responded with a career-high 19 points. USC emphasized the post game against smaller and quicker Alabama and it paid off.
"It was a good confidence-builder for us," Ibiam said. "We know what we have to do from the last game."
THE DEEJ: Khadijah Sessions finished with 11 points, second-highest on the team. She again came off the bench as Tiffany Mitchell has been reinstated to the starting lineup.
"It doesn't matter to me at all," Sessions said. "I'm still going to bring the same intensity, no matter where I'm playing."
Mitchell drained the Gamecocks' first field goal, a 3-pointer, and finished with nine points.
STREAKING: USC won its opening game of the SEC tournament for the third straight year.
FAMILIAR FEELING: USC brought its cheerleaders, band and dance team to the game. A USC official confirmed that the same groups will be present for the SEC men's tournament in Nashville, Tenn., next week.
REDSHIRT PRESERVED: Tina Roy, recovering from a knee injury in the offseason, was at the game in street clothes, along with Tiffany Davis, who went down in the early season, also with a knee injury. It seems very likely that Roy will continue to sit out and preserve her redshirt year.
Dawn Staley previously said that if Roy was moving around well enough and able to practice, she wouldn't hesitate to put her in. It doesn't seem likely that Roy will be needed in the SEC or NCAA tournaments, leaving her three years of eligibility.
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