SEC Opener Slips Away From Lady Bulldogs

COLUMBIA, S.C. ­ 12th ranked South Carolina erased a 14-point Mississippi State halftime lead in the second half to defeat the Lady Bulldogs 83-79 Thursday night in the new Carolina Center in Columbia, South Carolina.<P> The Lady Gamecocks out-scored MSU 53-35 in the final half. Koretha Johnson's lay up with 53 seconds to give USC an 80-79 lead sealed the win for the Lady Gamecocks. USC has now won 16 straight on their home floor.

The 14th ranked Lady 'Dogs came out on fire in the opening half, shooting 59 percent from the field and 60 percent from three-point range. MSU was led by sophomore guard Tan White's 16 points in the first half. The Tupelo, Miss., native finished with 23 points and a season-high seven assists. She also tied her career-high in steals with seven.

State went on an 8-0 run to jump-start their lead. They pushed their lead out to 18 points before USC trimmed that lead down to 44-30 at the intermission.

MSU held USC's Jocelyn Penn, the nation's leading scorer to just six first half points. Penn had to sit with early foul trouble. She finished with 24 points, 18 coming in the second half.

In the second half, MSU (11-3,0-1) had trouble holding on to the ball. Committing 15 of their 20 turnovers in the second half, The Lady Bulldogs saw their lead diminish from 14 points to one point late in the ballgame. The Lady Gamecocks tied it at 76-76 with 2:24 left in the game.

"What you ask of a team is to be prepared. I thought we did a great job of that in the first half," said head coach Sharon Fanning. "You have to make adjustments in the second half but we became a passive team in the second half."

Senior forward LaToya Thomas scored 16 of her 26 points in the second half. Thomas was 12-16 from the field. She also led MSU on the boards with eight. Freshman guard Doceide Warren added eight points and Rebecca Kates contributed six points.

"Hopefully we will learn from this. You learn to play with composure in the second half," said Fanning.

USC (13-1,1-0) had all five starters in double digits. Petra Ujhelyi recorded a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Johnson and Cristina Ciocan both finished with 14 points. Kelly Morrone added 11 points.

"We'll regroup and get ready for Vanderbilt," said Fanning. "They (Vanderbilt) have a great point guard and post player. They play smart and have good balance," she added.

The Lady Bulldogs will open the SEC home slate on Sunday, playing host to 13th ranked Vanderbilt. Tip off between MSU and VU is set for 2 p.m. The Lady Commodores will bring a record of 10-3 to Humphrey Coliseum, it will also be their SEC opener.

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