Melanie Johnson leads Lady G's to Victory

Melanie Johnson was voted as a pre-season second team All-SEC player. Johnson proved she was worthy of the accolades when it mattered most during Sunday's season opening win against East Tennessee State. Johnson scored 19 of her 23 points in the second half, including scoring 13 consecutive points that put the game away for good in a 78-53 win for the Gamecocks.

You may be asking the question; how could a 25-point win be ugly? Well, the Gamecocks trailed 45-42 with about 12 minutes left in the game before ending the game on a 36-8 run to run away with it. The Lady G's used a smoothering defense and an aggressive offense to pull away. But the win was all but pretty.

The Bucs used their hot hand, Michele Devault, to stay in the game early on. Devault drained three of her seven attempts in the half to lead all scorers with 13 points. The Bucs also took advantage of some sloppy defense by a usually tough USC team. The Gamecocks used a 3-2 man-zone throughout the game, but it failed to fulfill its purpose for the most part. USC was caught out of position several times, leading to wide open 3-pointers for the Bucs. The Bucs took advantage of those miscues, as well as out-hustling the Gamecocks en route to a 32-28 halftime lead. Even though USC shot a dismal 38% in the first half, ETSU was worse as they shot only 32%. However, the Bucs were a perfect 10-10 in the half, as well as four 3-pointers to jump out to that four point lead.

The second half started just as the first half ended, with ETSU building their largest lead of the game at seven with a 39-32 lead. After taking the seven point lead, Devault picked up her third foul and was sent to the bench. Johnson, Demetress Adams, and Lakesha Tolliver quickly erased that deficit with Devault on the bench to tie it at 39-39. ETSU would eventually build a 45-42 lead, but Johnson would dash any hopes of a Bucs win with her 13-0 run. USC shot 46% in the second half and ETSU shot 36%.

Johnson led the USC offense with 23 points, 6 rebounds and 5 steals. Tolliver added 15 points and 7 rebounds, and Iva Sliskovic finished with 13 points and 4 rebounds. USC used that balanced attack as 9 players would score.

Devault led the scoring for the Bucs with 13 (0 pts in the second half), while Siarre Evans scored 10. Sumter, SC native Nichelle Akers was all over the place, scoring 8 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and a block.

Next up for the Lady G's is a trip to Happy Valley and a showdown with the Penn State Nittany Lions Tuesday night at 7:00. The Lions are 2-0 on the year with a 74-56 win over Drexel and a 71-46 win of Syracuse. The Gamecocks and Nittany Lions last met in the second round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament, with Penn State coming away with a 77-67 win to eliminate the Gamecocks. If the Gamecocks hope to win, they must come out with the intensity they used in the second half.

Grading the keys

1. Come out firing- The Lady G's came out with a different line-up as Lea Fabbri and Ilona Burgrova both started out on the bench. USC struggled the entire first half, and would have been blown away by a good team. D

2. Dominate the paint- This is something USC actually did well. The Gamecocks out-rebounded the Bucs 51-29, with a 26-11 advantage on the offensive end. A

3. Turnovers- Again, this is something the Gamecocks did fairly well. After a very sloppy first half, USC settled down a lot in the second half to finish with only 19 turnovers. In turn, the Gamecocks also forced 26 Buc turnovers. B+

Overall, a very ugly win, but a win none-the-less. The only positive is knowing that we had to play 40 minutes, which is something we're going to certainly have to do Tuesday. I think we came out flat and it took us a while to recover and dominate the way we should have.

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