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March 8, 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 53, (10) Missouri 40
Game 5 -- (6) LSU 65, (11) Auburn 62
Game 6 -- (1) Tennessee 82, (9) Florida 73
Game 7 -- (4) Texas A&M 61, (5) South Carolina 52
Game 8 -- (7) Vanderbilt vs. (2) Kentucky, 6 p.m. (FSS)
Game 9 -- (6) LSU vs. (3) Georgia, 8:30 p.m. (FSS)
Game 10 -- (4) Texas A&M vs. (1) Tennessee, 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)
DULUTH, Ga. - The chance was there, as clear as crystal. South Carolina could see its path to the SEC tournament semifinals shining with kilowatt brightness.
Texas A&M had other ideas.
With star player Kelsey Bone down and holding her right knee, USC having just tied the game at 28, the No. 19 Aggies kicked into another gear and played for their fallen comrade in a 61-52 SEC tournament quarterfinal win on Friday. The Aggies went on a 14-2 run as Bone went into the locker room and was fitted with a knee brace for her eventual return, while USC panicked, fumbled and bumbled its way right past a golden opportunity.
The result was predictable. USC has enough problems scoring points against teams that it gives up height to. When the opponent, like the Aggies, is stocked with several players who tower and bull past USC's smaller, rangier defenders, it's going to be a long day.
The No. 17 Gamecocks (24-7) never recovered. The run put them in a hole they couldn't climb out of and their tournament stay ended with a 1-1 record.
"Sometimes, you got to make plays to win," coach Dawn Staley said. "I thought we shot ourselves in the foot."
USC is off until the NCAA tournament selections are announced on March 18. While assured of making the tournament for the second straight year, the Gamecocks wanted to do more damage in Duluth. Letting A&M (22-9) dictate the game and coming out unfocused, full of energy but not controlling it, was not what Staley wanted to see as her team is about to begin the real postseason.
"It just comes down to us hitting layups," Staley said. "If we can just make layups, I think the game will probably be a little bit better."
Ashley Bruner, who was gushing about how ready she was for the matchup on Thursday, was too keyed up early, not finishing at the rim and being too hand-friendly on defense. With Bone on Aleighsa Welch, that took away another inside option, and point guard Ieasia Walker was being hounded by A&M's Courtney Walker.
The Gamecocks fought back from an early hole to make it 24-21 with 2:23 to go in the first half, but Bruner missed three straight field goals and a chip shot at the rim, while Walker drove the lane in the closing seconds and was whistled for charging. USC continued to hang close after halftime, and then Bone went down.
Holding her knee and crying in pain, the play couldn't be stopped and Walker tied the game with a 3-pointer. The Gamecocks watched Bone, a former teammate of Bruner and Walker, be helped off the court and knew the chance was there.
But they didn't take it.
Karla Gilbert more than filled in for her hurting teammate, scoring six of A&M's next eight points, and USC continued to throw the ball away and rush shots. With no way to counter the Aggies' height, USC watched a tie game turn into a nine-point deficit.
"We didn't execute," Ieasia Walker said. "We turned the ball over a fairly good amount of times. It was just us over-playing."
Bone returned and USC strangely got back into the game, but never could get closer than five points. Gilbert was always there to hit the big basket, and USC couldn't answer. Bone was held to seven points, but Gilbert had 11, and Kristi Bellock had 17.
Elem Ibiam, the hero of Thursday's second-round win over Alabama, was held to two points and seemed to regress to being timid against the Aggies' physicality. Bruner finished with 19 but was 8-of-15 from the field and 3-of-9 from the line. Welch had eight while being hampered with foul trouble and Walker had 15.
Overall, USC rushed shots and then fouled late in the game. It was a recipe for disaster, and that's exactly what it turned into. Throw in that when the Gamecocks were given gimme points - at the free-throw line - and they pulled their usual vanishing act by making 10-of-20, and the final was easily explained.
Not the way the Gamecocks wanted to finish, especially after losing to A&M by just two points during the regular season, but that's the way it happened. USC has one more chance, one last chance, to erase the sting and make something happen in the big tournament in two weeks.
"We'll take a few days off," Staley said. "Then we'll probably get back into it mid-week, just to work on some things. Work on executing in the half-court and continuing to work, keep our defense sharp, and our rebounding. And then we wait."
South Carolina NEWS