Bone dominates, leads USC to win over UK

Kelsey Bone scored a game-high 23 points on 11-14 shooting and showed why she was the #2 rated freshman in the country as South Carolina defeated Kentucky 79-71 Thursday night at the Colonial Life Arena. Bone, who entered the game averaging just over 14 points per game, used her height and strength advantage to dominate the smaller Wildcats all night.

"It has been stressed to me the past couple of games that it's time for me to dominate, and get back to the Kelsey of old." Bone said after the game. "I have made a few adjustments with the physicality I am facing and all of the different looks that I see. I really think that it all started to click today."

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley agreed, but said that brand of physicality has been emphasized to Bone since she first arrived.

"It's been stressed to her since the very beginning, from day one. I just don't think she understood the magnitude of that. She's a big body; she can score on the block. She wasn't doing the little things early on, just being consistent and scoring down there. She has great footwork, and she is just going to have to put the ball in the hole. She only missed three shots tonight. But the three that she missed looked good, they were close enough for her to make. But she is certainly going to have to assert herself like she has the last couple of games."

Kentucky opened up by scoring the first 4 points of the game on jumpers from A'dia Mathies and Amber Smith. That would be the largest lead the Cats would have the entire game. A Bone jumper followed by an Ieasia Walker lay-up quickly tied the game up at 4. Later in the half, with the game tied 14-14, Walker hit a 3-pointer from 5 feet behind the 3-point line as the shot clock expired that gave the Gamecock offense a boost. Carolina would score the next 5 points to build a 22-14 lead mid-way through the half. The Wildcats came storming back with a 9-0 run to take a 25-22 lead, but Carolina would eventually take a 37-33 lead into the locker room.

After a Samone Kennedy jumper to start the second half gave Carolina a 39-33 lead, Kentucky would claw right back into the game to tie it 39-39. From that point on, the Gamecocks decided that would be the last of Kentucky's threats. Carolina went on an 8-0 spurt and would never look back the rest of the way. The Gamecocks would build the lead to as many as 15 points late in the game before allowing Kentucky to make a mini-run at the end to make it respectable.

For the second straight game, the Gamecocks ended with five players scoring in double-figures. Along with Bone's 23 points, Valerie Nainima added 14, Charenee Stephens added 11, and Walker and Samone Kennedy scored 10 apiece. That kind of balance is critical for the Gamecocks to have success, according to Staley.

"It helps when everyone is a threat out there on the floor." Staley said. "It is hard for anybody to guard us, and that's what we've been asking them to do. I know we do set up Kelsey and Valerie with a lot of shots, but at the same time other people have to be a threat out there on the floor and take open looks. We don't say, 'You can't shoot.' You just have to take the right shots on the floor."

Staley knew that her team could win the game if they got the ball to the paint, and that's exactly what her team did.

"They [Kentucky] had a strength, which was putting the ball on the floor and attacking us. Ours was a little closer to the basket. Whatever team was able to play to their strengths was going to win the game. We got 52 points in the paint. That's with Kelsey; that's with Charenee; that's with our guards penetrating and getting to the hole with fast break points. That was one of the things we emphasized for the game."

Kentucky, which was picked to finish 11th in the SEC during the preseason, is far from being among the worst in the conference, according to Staley.

"They're a very, very good basketball team. A team that has been playing well. They will not finish 11th. That team is too good a team to finish 11th."

With the win, Carolina improved to 9-7 overall and evened its conference record at 2-2. With the loss, Kentucky drops to 13-3 on the season and 1-2 in the SEC.

South Carolina returns to action Sunday afternoon to host the Auburn Tigers. The Tigers are 11-6 on the season and 2-2 in conference play, including a stunning 64-62 overtime win against top 10 LSU in Baton Rouge.

Sunday will be reading day for local elementary schools and the first 1,000 fans will receive a Firehouse Subs 3-point card. Tip is set for 3:00.

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