Late rally comes up short

South Carolina's offense struggled to get on track in a 53-49 loss at Auburn Thursday night in SEC women's basketball action at Auburn Arena. Sancheon White ripped down 13 of the Gamecocks' 42 rebounds, but 28.6 percent shooting allowed the Tigers to hold off a second-half South Carolina (14-5, 3-3 SEC) charge.

The Gamecocks struggled offensively in the first half, despite kicking off the game with a 3-pointer from senior guard Markeshia Grant in the first minute. It would be another three minutes before White's 3-pointer followed.

Meanwhile, the Tigers crashed the glass and took advantage of South Carolina turnovers to built a 16-8 lead midway through the half. A pair of free throws from La'Keisha Sutton stemmed the tide and sparked a 7-2 spurt that included a 3-pointer from Tina Roy and a basket from the right block from Aleighsa Welch.

The Tigers scored nine of the game's next 11 points, however, to extend their lead to double digits at 27-17 with 4:35 to go in the half. The Gamecock defense clamped down, allowing just one point the rest of the half, but the offense continued to struggle.

After trailing 28-19 at the half, the Gamecocks saw their deficit grow to 13 at 42-29 with 10:17 left to play. Consecutive baskets from Welch and Charenee Stephens, including a traditional three-point play from the latter, narrowed the gap to nine. The Tigers answered with a bucket from the right block from Chantel Hilliard, but the Gamecock defense cranked up the pressure to spark a 14-2 run.

Grant opened the surge with a 3-pointer from the top of the arc and after a blocked shot on the other end, Ashley Bruner hit a pair of free throws, which Hilliard answered for the Tigers' only points of the stretch.

While the defense forced three turnovers, the offense began picking its way through the Tiger defense. Bruner drove hard to the basket, and White turned a steal into a quick layup. After a pair of offensive rebounds, Ieasia Walker turned the third into a bucket and a free throw. Bruner took a charge on the other end, and Walker curled through the lane for another basket and a 47-46 Gamecock lead with 5:25 left to play.

Both teams came up empty on their next possessions, and the Gamecock defense forced a bad shot at the end of the shot clock, but an offensive rebound gave the Tigers new life. Blanch Alverson delivered a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to put Auburn back up 49-47 with 3:19 on the clock.

More aggressive offensive rebounding paid dividends for South Carolina on the next trip up the floor. Bruner's two free throws knotted the game at 49-49 with 2:29 to go. Tyrese Tanner hit a hook shot on the other end to put her team back on top, and the Gamecocks' shooting woes struck again.

In the final 30 seconds, Walker drove hard to the basket but came up short. A jump ball call on the rebound gave the Tigers the ball with 10 seconds to play, and a pair of Tanner free throws sealed the victory.

Grant's nine points led the offense as did Sutton's four assists. Bruner finished with eight points, including a perfect 4-of-4 night from the free throw line. As a team, the Gamecocks shot 77.8 percent from the charity stripe, but could not generate enough opportunities there to have it make an impact on the outcome of the game.

The Gamecocks are back on the road on Sun., Jan. 22, with a 1:30 p.m. (ET) tipoff at No. 25/22 Vanderbilt. The game will be televised on ESPNU. South Carolina returns to Colonial Life Arena for just the second time in six games on Thu., Jan. 26, with a 7 p.m. tilt against Ole Miss.

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