OXFORD, Miss. - South Carolina senior Brionna Dickerson's career night propelled the Gamecocks to a 76-67 win at Mississippi Thursday night, the first SEC win of the season for Carolina (9-9, 1-4 SEC). The Gamecocks' sharp-shooter poured in 31 points, 21 of which came in the second half, as she matched her career high with five 3-pointers. South Carolina played much of the game without senior Demetress Adams, who left midway through the first half with an injury, but other post players stepped up - especially freshman Charenee Stephens, who posted her first career double-double with 11 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
Offense was difficult to come by for either team early in the game, but the Gamecocks put together an 8-0 run eight minutes into the half to turn a two-point deficit into a six-point lead. Stephens kicked off the spurt with a steal and layup to knot the game at 9-9. After a pair of free throws, Dickerson hit her second 3-pointer of the night from the left baseline, and a Jewel May free throw made it a 15-9 Gamecock lead. The South Carolina surge came under difficult circumstances as senior Demetress Adams left the game with a right knee sprain midway through the run.
The Lady Rebels pulled within two following a Shantell Black driving layup and a Alliesha Easley jumper from the elbow. Carolina answered with a 7-0 run in which the Gamecocks scored from the free-throw line, the 3-point line and via the drive to take a 24-15 advantage. Again the Lady Rebels answered, scoring half the points of their 6-0 run from the free-throw line to pull within 24-20 with four minutes left.
Again the Gamecocks had the answer, crashing the boards and playing aggressive defense. Again, it was Stephens who kicked off the 8-0 run with a bucket from the right block. Dickerson and Lauren Falohun each hit a pair of free throws, and Lakeisha Sutton drive the baseline for a layup and a 32-20 lead inside two minutes. Ole Miss crawled back from the free-throw line again and had the Carolina lead down to 32-25 before Courtney Newton buried a deep 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the Gamecocks into the locker room with a 35-25 lead.
After shooting just 28.1 percent in the first half, the Lady Rebels came out of the locker room firing. Hitting each of their first five shots after the break, turned Ole Miss' 10-point deficit into a one-point lead on Black's runner in the lane just three minutes into the half. Losing the lead and a timeout by head coach Dawn Staley, sparked the Gamecock offense. Falohun sank a 3-pointer from the right wing, and, after a steal on the other end, Dickerson hit a mid-range jumper for a 40-36 lead before the first media timeout of the half.
The Gamecock surge continued unabated thanks to tough work on the boards by Stephens and Newton. Free throws extended the margin to nine at 45-36 before the Lady Rebels stopped the bleeding with putback with 13:15 left in the game. Ole Miss got within three points three times over the next seven minutes, but the Gamecocks allowed them no closer. The final close contact came after a pair of free throws from Black with 6:26 on the clock and Carolina holding onto a 56-53 lead. Dickerson put the offense on her back, hitting consecutive 3-pointers. Black drove the lane to narrow the margin to five, but Stephens hit a bucket from the left block and Dickerson rained in another three from the top of the key to push the lead back to 10 points.
The Gamecocks solved their recent problems at the free-throw line, hitting 9-of10 in the final two minutes to finish the game at 26-of-33 from the charity stripe. Carolina won the battle of the boards 46-33, and Sutton and Newton also reached double-figure points with 15 and 10, respectively. Sutton also handed out a career-high seven assists. South Carolina's bench scored 41 of the team's 76 points in the win.
South Carolina returns to Colonial Life Arena for its next two games, starting with No. 17/18 Vanderbilt on Sun., Jan. 25, at 3 p.m.
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