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February 19, 2012

WBB: USC searching for 20th win



NO. 25 SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (19-7, 8-5 SEC)
at
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (12-15, 2-11)

When: 3 p.m. today
Where: Foster Auditorium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
TV: Fox Sports Net
Tickets: Available at the box office
South Carolina's probable starters: G Ieasia Walker 5-8 Jr. (7.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg); G La'Keisha Sutton 5-8 Sr. (10.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg); G Markeisha Grant 5-6 Sr. (11.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg); F Aleighsa Welch 6-0 Fr. (8.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg); F Charenee Stephens 6-0 Sr. (4.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg)
Alabama's probable starters: G Jasmine Robinson 5-7 So. (11.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg); G Meghan Perkins 5-11 Jr. (9.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg); G Khristin Lee 5-9 So. (5.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg); G Jessica Merritt 5-8 Jr. (5.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg); F Kyra Crosby 6-1 Jr. (9.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg)
Notes: South Carolina is back on the road for its final two away contests this season. … The Gamecocks have won five of seven but have lost two of three. … USC won the first matchup with Alabama 68-42 on Jan. 1, the first SEC game for each team. … USC remains in search of its ninth SEC win, which would be a high under coach Dawn Staley, and its 20th overall win, another high. … Stephens had 11 rebounds against Georgia and will move into 23rd place on the all-time list with three more. … USC could tie a high set in 1989-90 with another road win. … Staley has never lost to the Crimson Tide. … It is Senior Day for Alabama.
Next up: South Carolina tips off at No. 7 Kentucky at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

Dawn Staley said that No. 25 South Carolina's two-point loss to Georgia might take a while to get over. Watching the rest of the SEC after the Gamecocks finished their game made the process a whole lot harder.

After Thursday's dust settled, the SEC standings were severely shaken. Kentucky, once running away with the league, had dropped three of four and was tied with Tennessee for first place. The Gamecocks were with three other teams in a tie for fourth place with only three games to play, meaning that someone will probably end the year tied for fourth but only one will receive the first-round bye in the SEC tournament that goes with it.

USC is looking good for an NCAA tournament berth at 19-7, 8-5 SEC, but needs a couple more wins to really lock it down. What made the Georgia loss particularly painful is what could have been.

Ieasia Walker's last-second shot drops, or USC uses its foul to give to stop the Lady Bulldogs as they crossed mid-court, or a clean block is ruled a clean block and not a shooting foul, the Gamecocks are sitting pretty. But none of those happened.

What happened was USC lost, and plummeted into the tie for fourth place (the tiebreaker, as it stands now, would have the Gamecocks the sixth seed in the tournament). If the Gamecocks had won, they would be one game out of first place.

With a tiebreaker over Tennessee. With a chance to play Kentucky on Thursday to try and even the Wildcats' previous win over USC. With a tiebreaker over Georgia. With just three games to play.

Instead, USC is in a tie for fourth, with Georgia in third place and holding the tiebreaker. With Arkansas and LSU also tied for fourth, and each holding the tiebreaker over USC (the Gamecocks play Arkansas again on Feb. 26). The Gamecocks got all the help they needed on Thursday when Kentucky and Arkansas lost, but didn't help themselves.

And now they have to go on the road to play the team that shocked the Wildcats - Alabama. USC thoroughly whipped the Crimson Tide to open the SEC season, but that was on Jan. 1, a long way from Feb. 19.

"Very, very athletic basketball team," Staley said. "They're pressing a lot more, they're just trying to turn you over and create some easy buckets for them. They're going to press us."

USC was right there with Georgia despite having its offense flustered for the first 15 minutes of the second half. Leading scorer Markeisha Grant barely touched the ball as the Bulldogs' taller defenders swallowed her up, and while La'Keisha Sutton took over the half and Walker put together a late spurt, it wasn't enough.

Grant and Sutton have been the stalwarts lately, but USC is looking to get Aleighsa Welch back in gear. The freshman continues to lead the SEC in field-goal percentage and has started two straight games, but is having trouble getting a shot off.

"We need to have a good two days of practice," Sutton said. "Just get prepared for Alabama and not take them lightly."

Just because SIGNING DAY is over doesn't mean our coverage of the
big day stops. We have more analysis of USC's 2012 signing class, plus
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