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December 2, 2012

WBB: Gamecocks stay perfect


SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. - South Carolina got double-doubles from Aleighsa Welch and Tiffany Mitchell to go with a scrappy second-half from Ashley Bruner to fight out a 55-42 victory over Seton Hall on Sunday at Walsh Gymnasium. The Gamecocks (9-0) used a late surge to take a two-point lead at the half, and 13-2 run late in the second half to collect their ninth win of the season.

The Gamecocks were a little sluggish out of the gate, but found their footing to take a 7-6 lead behind an Ieasia Walker 3-pointer from the top of the arc and a floater from Welch less than four minutes into the game. The teams traded the lead three times before Seton Hall's Ka'Deidre Simmons drove the line for a 14-12 edge, which the Pirates stretched to a 22-16 advantage with five minutes to play while the Gamecocks suffered a four-minute scoring drought.

After forcing a pair of Seton Hall turnovers but coming up scoreless, the Gamecocks got back on track behind tenacious offensive rebounding. Mitchell kicked off an 8-0 run with a putback that followed two other offensive boards in the possession to draw within four with 3:15 left in the period. The defense forced two more turnovers to keep the Pirates off the board, and Bruner followed up her own miss to keep the surge alive. A Khadijah Sessions steal yielded a Welch basket from the right block. On the Pirates' next trip up the floor, Walker tipped a pass, then quickly bounced back up to block a shot to give the Gamecocks the final possession of the half. Mitchell put up a long jumper in the waning seconds, and Welch quickly corralled the miss and put it off the glass to send USC into the locker room with a 24-22 lead.

The second half was a back-and-forth affair until the Gamecocks took control midway through the period, using aggressive defense and rebounding. Bruner especially took it to the Pirates during a 13-2 run that put USC up 52-37 with 4:05 left in the game.

The surge had an auspicious beginning with a pair of missed free throws after a technical foul called on Seton Hall coach Anne Donovan. The crowd got behind the Pirates, who looked to mount a rally of their own with a steal and a driving layup from Brittany Morris. After a pair of free throws from Sancheon White, the Gamecocks' defense locked things down. At the start of a two-minute scoring drought for Seton Hall, Bruner turned a defensive rebound into a basket on the other end. The Pirates scored to cut the Gamecock lead to seven at 44-37, but the USC defense forced three turnovers on the Pirates' next four possessions and converted them into points every time down the floor.

Mitchell hit a 3 from the left side, and Bruner took her steal all the way to the goal for a layup. Mitchell and White finished off the spurt with free throws to give the Gamecocks a 53-37 lead they would not relinquish.

Welch's 14 points led all scorers, and her 10 rebounds were second only to Mitchell's 11. The freshman guard added 13 points, 10 of which came in the second half. Bruner finished with nine points and seven rebounds. The Gamecocks out-rebounded the Pirates 38-26 and got 20 of their 55 points off turnovers.

USC is back in action on Dec. 9, against Furman. Tipoff at Colonial Life Arena is set for 3 p.m.

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