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March 26, 2013

WBB: USC-Kansas Hoops Extra: Seniors bow out

Game 1
-- (4) No. 17 South Carolina 74, (13) South Dakota State 52
Game 2 -- (12) Kansas 67, (5) No. 19 Colorado 52
Game 3
-- (12) Kansas 75, (4) No. 17 South Carolina 69

BOULDER, Colo. - Two of the three seniors sat at the table, trying to remain stoic. It mostly worked.

But there were a few tears that leaked.

The careers of Ieasia Walker, Ashley Bruner and Sancheon White ended on Monday as South Carolina couldn't keep up with Kansas in the second round of the NCAA tournament, 75-69. The three left everything they had on the floor but the Jayhawks just couldn't miss enough shots to keep USC in it.

White, the team's best defender, was in foul trouble all game and Kansas got comfortable because of it. Walker and Bruner combined for 27 points, Bruner recording yet another double-double with 12 rebounds, but it wasn't enough.

"They put us in the situation to go to the second round and get a four-seed," coach Dawn Staley said. "They only way we're going to capitalize on that leadership is for our youngsters to grow up."

Bruner and Walker were pressed to become leaders after the five-woman group of seniors left after last season, and did. The two were able to put their three previous years of learning into effect, channeling what they had learned and their own games into another 25-win year.

It wasn't easy to talk about, but each did.

"It is bittersweet," Walker said. "I want to compete at the next level, but I am not going to get to play with my teammates or for these coaches again. I am going to miss playing here."

Bruner, whose goofy off-the-court personality was in direct contrast to her ferociousness on it, said it with a grin. Yes, it hurt to lose, but it didn't wipe away how far she had seen her team come.

"I am proud to be a Gamecock," she said. "I am proud of where we have been."

RIGHT THERE: Staley's streak of improving her SEC and overall win total during every year of her USC tenure came to end. She only matched last year's overall win total (25), meaning that the phrase will now have to say, "she has at least matched the previous year's win total every year she has been at USC."

Next year's Gamecocks will have to try and top 11 SEC wins and 25 overall wins.

TECHNICIAN: Elem Ibiam continued a fine postseason run with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Despite only averaging 4.8 points and 4.2 rebounds in the regular season, Ibiam averaged 11.3 points and 8.0 rebounds in the SEC and NCAA tournaments.

ONE FOR THE BOOKS: USC lost, but still had one of the best seasons in program history. Going by win totals, USC's season was the fourth-best in school history.

USC's best seasons
30-6 (1979-80)
27-10 (1978-79)
25-7 (2001-02)
25-8 (2012-13)
25-10 (2011-12)
24-9 (1989-90)
24-10 (1977-78)

TOURNAMENT HISTORY: USC came into the game with an NCAA tournament record of 11-9. The Gamecocks' history in the big dance:

1982: 1-1
1986: 0-1
1988: 1-1
1989: 0-1
1990: 2-1
1991: 0-1
2002: 3-1
2003: 1-1
2012: 2-1
2013: 1-1

Alabama 1-0
Bowling Green 1-0
Cincinnati 1-0
Drake 1-0
Duke 0-1
East Carolina 1-0
Eastern Michigan 1-0
Kansas 0-1
Kentucky 0-1
Liberty 1-0
Middle Tennessee State 0-1
Northwestern 1-0
Penn State 0-1
Purdue 1-0
South Dakota State 1-0
Texas 0-1
Tennessee-Chattanooga 1-0
Tennessee Tech 0-1
Stanford 0-1
Vanderbilt 0-1
Washington 0-1

BRACKET WATCH: Kansas advanced to meet the winner of the Iowa City winner next week in the Sweet 16, in Norfolk, Va. That pod played its first two games on Sunday.

Top seed Notre Dame easily handled 16-seed Tennessee-Martin, 97-64. Nine-seed Iowa whipped eight-seed Miami 69-53. The Fighting Irish and the host Hawkeyes play at 9:40 p.m. on Tuesday.

Times and dates for the Norfolk regional, which will send its winner to the Final Four in New Orleans, will be announced later this week.

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