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WBB: South Carolina steals win from Alabama

SOUTH CAROLINA WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

South Carolina forced three late turnovers to escape Alabama with a 62-59 win Sunday at Colonial Life Arena.

After allowing Alabama to take its first - and only - lead of the game with 1:07 remaining, South Carolina came up with a steal on each of Alabama’s next three possessions to escape with the win. A pull-up jumper by Jasmine Walker gave Alabama the lead, 59-58. Even with a timeout, South Carolina responded with another dismal offensive possession, but Mikiah Herbert Harrigan bailed the Gamecocks out with a long jumper as the shot clock expired, retaking the lead.

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“(The play) was for me to flash to the high posts and get a shot off,” Herbert Harrigan said. “Going through my head was just to be confident. I have confidence in my shot.”

Both teams called timeouts, and then Te’a Cooper swiped the ball from Shaquera Wade. Cooper was fouled, but only made 1-of-2 free throws. After another Alabama timeout, Alexis Jennings poked the ball away from Ariyah Copeland. There was a scramble for the loose ball, but Jennings and Cooper manages to push the ball ahead to Bianca Cuevas-Moore, who tried to dribble out the clock before being fouled with 4.8 seconds left. She could have sealed the win, but only made one free throw, giving Alabama a glimmer of hope. South Carolina called timeout to set the defense, and it worked. Cooper swiped the inbounds pass and ran out the clock.

Both teams got off to slow starts, but South Carolina woke up first. Alabama missed its first 10 shots of the game and South Carolina crept out to a 9-0 lead. USC would hold on to a similar lead for much of the first half, and then two free throws by Tyasha Harris with 0.7 seconds left gave South Carolina a 10-point halftime lead.

The Gamecocks scored two quick buckets to start the second half, causing Kristy Curry to call a timeout just 50 seconds in. The Crimson Tide responded by making five straight baskets and going on a 10-2 run. They would pull within one twice, but the Gamecocks took a three-point lead into the fourth.

South Carolina lost focus in the fourth. It would score a couple of baskets to get a comfortable lead, and then a couple lazy offensive possessions would follow and Alabama would take advantage to claw back.

“We were forcing things. We weren’t keeping the game simple,” Gamecock head coach Dawn Staley said. “We got stagnant.”

Herbert Harrigan was the only reliable scorer for South Carolina. She finished with 18 points on 8-16 shooting, and was just one rebound shy of a double double. Herbert Harrigan also blocked five shots, giving her 11 in the two conference games.

“KiKi is steadily gaining more confidence in herself and seeing it,” Staley said. “KiKi is very a visual and tangible being, when she sees 18 and nine after having a double-double against Texas A&M it allows her to continue to grow and be confident on the floor, and it’s working for us.”

Freshman Destanni Henderson was the only other Gamecock in double figures, with 11. One game after a dominant showing against Texas A&M, Cooper was passive for long stretches, and finished with just five points, four assists, and three steals.

“I though Te’a went back to putting that ball over her head, just looking inside,” Staley said. “I told her she needs to attack and be aggressive. In the second half she was that.”

South Carolina shot just 31 percent in the second half, while allowing Alabama to shoot 48 percent.

Notes:

With her fourth block, Herbert Harrigan moved into the top 10 for career blocks at South Carolina. She has 36 blocks this season, nearly equaling the 39 she had as a freshman and 42 as a sophomore. … Harris grabbed a season-high eight rebounds, to go with four points, three assists, and three steals. … Cuevas-Moore continued her strong play play of late, chipping in nine points and three assists off the bench. … Cierra Johnson had 19 points and six rebounds for Alabama. Walker added 17 points and six rebounds. … Staley is now 15-0 against Alabama. The previous closest game in the series was 11 points, which occurred twice. This was the first game to be settled by single digits. … Announced attendance was 11,392. … South Carolina’s next game is Thursday night at 7 against Florida at Colonial Life Arena.

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