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January 8, 2012

WBB: Gamecocks skin Gators; Top 25 likely



PER USC

At Gainesville, Fla., South Carolina matched its last best start in program history and earned an eighth straight win with a 49-44 win over Florida on Sunday. Coach Dawn Staley collected her first win at USC over the Gators and broke a five-game losing streak to UF, while also matching a winning string not seen since the 2003-04 season.

At 3-0, the Gamecocks (14-2) stayed tied for first place in the SEC. They will travel to LSU on Thursday for an 8 p.m. tipoff, but will almost certainly receive some good news on Monday.

USC, which has received votes in the Top 25 for each of the last three weeks, is likely to be ranked when the poll is released on Monday. The Gamecocks have not been in the Top 25 since March of 2003.

USC leaped to a 31-15 halftime lead, but the Gators (11-5, 1-2) clawed back in the game due to its full-court pressure. Markeisha Grant, playing in front of several fans who traveled from her native Tampa to watch the game, stuck a jumper from the free-throw line to break an 11-0 Florida run out of the locker room and re-establish control.

Florida wouldn't go away, cutting the lead to 45-40, but Aleighsa Welch blocked a Gator shot and the defense held. The score remained the same as the clock ticked under 1:00, then a missed free throw became a put-back and a 45-42 USC advantage.

The Gators had to foul and did, putting Grant on the line. The senior missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Charenee Stephens cleaned the rebound and put it back for a 47-42 lead. Florida scored, but then had to foul again, and picked senior La'Keisha Sutton.

Sutton calmly aced both shots to set the final score and USC forced another turnover to settle it.

Sutton and Grant tied for the team lead with 11 points each. Welch, the freshman who came into the game leading the SEC in shooting percentage, was another 5-of-9 for 10 points. Stephens had seven and freshman Tina Roy had five.

The Gamecocks yanked 39 rebounds to Florida's 37 and forced 19 turnovers, holding the Gators to one 3-pointer, as they did to Vanderbilt, the nation's best 3-point shooting team.

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