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WBB: Gamecocks hold off Kentucky

SOUTH CAROLINA WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

South Carolina rebounded from an early 10-point deficit to beat #19 Kentucky 74-70 Thursday night in Lexington, Ky.

Kentucky began the game with more energy than South Carolina and sprinted out to a 20-10 lead. South Carolina looked sluggish, and Kentucky was able to control the tempo and make South Carolina play too fast.

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The first of three 9-0 Gamecock runs wiped out that lead. Te’a Cooper and Alexis Jennings scored inside, and then Tyasha Harris hit a three at the first quarter buzzer. Bianca Jackson scored in transition to cap the run. The teams went back and forth the rest of the quarter until another 9-0 run put the Gamecocks ahead for good.

Bianca Cuevas-Moore made a three from the wing, and then Victaria Saxton scored to put South Carolina ahead for the first time since 2-0. Cooper made a jumper from the elbow to put South Carolina up 33-28 at halftime, and then Jennings made a pair of free throws to start the third quarter.

After a pair of Kentucky free throws came USC's third 9-0 run. Cuevas-Moore scored five more points as South Carolina took a double-digit lead The lead was 11 after three quarters and 17 with six minutes left in the game. Up to that point, it was one of South Carolina’s best games of the season.

But the Gamecocks let off the gas, and had to hold on for dear life down the stretch. The Wildcats outscored the Gamecocks 21-8 in the final six minutes, but the Gamecocks scored just enough for the clock to run out.

South Carolina got the balanced production head coach Dawn Staley has expected all season. Jennings, who seems to relish playing her former team, had 18 points and 12 rebounds. Cooper had 17 points, Cuevas-Moore had 13, and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan had 11 points, five rebounds, and four blocks. Harris was the only starter not in double figures, but she had eight points, five rebounds, five assists, and two steals.

Behind Jennings and Herbert Harrigan, South Carolina dominated inside. After being outrebounded by five in the first quarter, South Carolina outrebounded Kentucky 37-31 the rest of the game. South Carolina outscored Kentucky 44-28 in the paint, and shot 25 free throws, compared to just 10 for Kentucky.

Maci Morris led Kentucky with 21 points. She had eight points on 4-of-5 shooting in the first quarter, but also had to check out after banging her knee. She was effective but not very efficient the rest of the game, shooting just 5-of-13 and turning the ball over five times. Rhyne Howard added 16 points and Taylor Murray added 12.

Notes:

After missing the Vanderbilt game with a muscle strain, Jackson played against Kentucky. She scored two points in seven minutes. … As good as the Gamecock starters were, the reserves were ineffective. The Gamecocks got only seven points, five rebounds and five assists off the bench. Doniyah Cliney was the most effect, with three points, three rebounds, and four assists. … Once one of the SEC’s fiercest rivalries, South Carolina has now won nine straight over Kentucky. Kentucky's last win was a big one, though, handing South Carolina its only conference loss on the final day of the 2015 season. … South Carolina’s next game is Sunday at Arkansas.

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