'D' leads Lady Gamecocks to 4th straight win
The Gamecocks improved to 6-3 on the season, while the Demon Deacons fell to 7-3.
"We made a conscious effort to cut Brittany Waters' production in half and Sandra Garcia's production in half," South Carolina Dawn Staley said of her team's defensive game plan. "I thought both Kelsey (Bone) and La'Keisha (Sutton) did a good job of getting after it defensively. It was one of our better games defensively. When the people who are supposed to be scoring aren't scoring, you're doing your job. Somebody else has to beat you, and fortunately for us, it wasn't enough for them to win the game."
Early on it was very apparent that Wake Forest was not going to let South Carolina's leading scorer, Valerie Nainima, beat them either. Nainima was virtually held scoreless in the first half. With the Gamecocks needing someone to step up, it was Sutton who took on the challenge. Sutton netted 11 of her game-high 18 points in the first twenty minutes as the Gamecocks jumped on the Deacons early.
"It was a great game for La'Keisha." Staley said of Sutton's performance. "It was a game that she needed from a confidence standpoint."
After trading baskets the first five minutes of the game, Wake Forest took their first lead at 6-4. That would be the only time the Deacons were on top, as the Gamecocks went on an 8-0 run to take a 12-6 lead and would never trail again. A Kelsey Bone jumper halfway through the first half gave Carolina a 22-11 lead, their largest of the half. Wake Forest would trim the lead down to 26-23 late in the first half, but the Gamecocks were able to answer. After a pair of Bone and Sutton free throws made it 30-23, Nainima finally found herself open in the right corner and buried a 3-pointer to give Carolina a 10-point lead with 20 seconds remaining. A pair of free throws from Wake Forest's Brooke Thomas made it 33-25 at the half.
The Gamecocks looked to take control of the game in the second half as they opened with another 8-0 run to extend the lead to a game-high 16 points at 41-25. At that point, things got quite sloppy for the Gamecocks. Turnovers and cold shooting allowed Wake Forest to chip away at the lead and had Coach Staley feeling a little uneasy.
"It was a five-point, six-point (8) game with two minutes left." Staley said of Wake Forest's comeback. "We need to clean up the turnover part of it. Minus the turnovers, we probably could have opened up the game a little bit more than we did."
Sutton echoed her coach's words.
"We had 24 turnovers, and we know that most of them were unforced. I don't know if we were trying to go too fast or if we just need to learn to play within the play. I know next game we'll do much better."
The Gamecocks will have to do better next game if they want to knock off border rival and 9th-ranked North Carolina Sunday at 3:00 in Myrtle Beach. According to Staley, the Tar Heels are a team that thrives off turnovers.
"They force a lot of turnovers. That's something we're really working at. We've got to play disciplined basketball. We just want to be in a position to win it at the end of the game. It's another opportunity for us to play one of the top teams in the country."
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