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November 30, 2011

WBB: Gamecocks skewer Musketeers


In Cincinnati, Dawn Staley said that a 5-1 start was very comforting, since it meant that her South Carolina team wouldn't have to play catch-up like it has been doing since she arrived. The more wins the Gamecocks can get now, the more the end-of-season games aren't quite so crucial.

Add another bit of breathing room to the cushion.

USC ripped Xavier 67-56 on Wednesday, improving to 6-1 and continuing the program's best start since 2003-04. The Gamecocks also soared to 3-0 in road games this season after winning three road games all of last season.

Led by a career-high 18 points from senior guard Markeisha Grant, USC spurted to a 10-2 lead and never let off the gas. Grant scored eight points in the game's first four minutes, and then let La'Keisha Sutton and Aleighsa Welch take over with seven points each in the first half. Junior guard Sancheon White, playing without goggles for the first time, then shed a shooting funk with eight quick points to pace a 34-20 halftime lead.

The Gamecocks stretched the lead to as much as 16 before the Musketeers (1-4) began to rally. Xavier cut the lead to seven points before Grant scored five quick points and Welch began owning the paint.

USC scored 18 points off turnovers in the first half, including seven steals. The Gamecocks were able to keep their surprisingly strong post game running and got more production from the guards for a comfortable win. Xavier turned the ball over 23 times.

USC missed 17 free throws, yet still comfortably win.

"I think it's been a concern for us that we haven't shot the ball very well," associate head coach Lisa Boyer said on the Gamecocks' radio broadcast. "I thought we got a contribution from a lot of different people today."

Welch posted a career-high 16 points and led USC with eight rebounds. Sutton had 10 points and five assists before fouling out, while White had a career-high 10 points.

USC plays at NC State at 2 p.m. on Sunday.

NOTE: Junior guard Ieasia Walker sat out the rest of the game after sustaining a knock to the head in the second half. She was available in case of emergency but sat on the bench with an icepack on a sizable bump. … Senior guard Courtney Newton bruised her knee in the second half and also did not return, but was available to play if needed. Newton has had three season-ending knee injuries since her junior year of high school but this one is not expected to be serious.

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