Nainima, Kennedy lead USC over High Point

Samone Kennedy had a career-high 7 steals to go along with a season high 14 points as the South Carolina women's basketball team defeated High Point, 70-52, in a Wednesday morning matinee. Valerie Nainima led all scorers with 20 points. Roughly 2,000 elementary students from around the midlands were on hand as part of the women's basketball "Reading With the Gamecocks" program.

The Gamecocks got off to a rough start, going back and forth with the Panthers before taking a slim 30-27 lead into the locker room.

"I was pretty calm," head coach Dawn Staley said of her half-time speech. "I knew what the problem was. I just asked the team if they had pride. I didn't draw anything on the board and rant and rave. I just calmly asked them questions about the game."

The team responded with a quick 8-0 run to open the second half and expand the lead to double digits. Kennedy would spark the Gamecock offense with 5 steals and 10 points in the second half.

"I just felt like we definitely needed more offense from somewhere," the junior point guard said. "We weren't really getting it from the half-court set, so I just felt like we needed to get it in transition and get a couple steals so we could push the tempo. The half-court sets were pretty slow, and I felt like I could get it to the hole."

Nainima, a 3-point specialist, used that threat to open up driving lanes for herself. Using several pump-fakes to get the defender off her feet, Nainima was able to get open jumpers and lay-ups. Still, she sees other players stepping up to take the load off of her and freshman phenom Kelsey Bone.

"A lot of girls stepped up, which is great for us because it takes a lot of pressure away from (Kelsey and I). Everybody's stepping up, and it's great to see it early in the season. Samone and Ebony (Wilson) gave us a lot of energy. Everybody is stepping up, and it's great to see it early in the season."

Bone was the only other Gamecock to reach double figures, scoring 13 points and narrowly missing another double-double with 9 rebounds. Wilson came off the bench to score 8 points and Ashley Bruner added 7.

Carolina, now 4-3 on the season, will break for exams next week before hosting perennial ACC power NC State on Sunday, December 13th at 2:00.

Staley was asked to examine the play of her squad through the first 7 games of the season.

"Young. I would chalk it up to being young. I think that we take one step forward and two steps back at times. The potential is there for us to be a very good basketball team, but we just aren't there yet. Once we continue to go through experiences like this where our players are continuing to learn, it will kick in when we need it to kick in. There's another level of basketball to be played out there, and we're missing the boat."

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