COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina used a 12-0 run early in the second half to take control of a tight game against Illinois, finishing with a 61-48 victory, the Gamecocks' first of the season. South Carolina out-rebounded its opponent for the second-straight game, 39-28, and saw its offense come to life. Leading by two at the half, the Gamecocks turned up the defensive pressure right out of the blocks in the second period to spur the decisive surge.
After South Carolina needed a rally at the end of the first half to take a 27-25 lead into the locker room, the Gamecock defense pressured Illinois into a series of turnovers and missed shots. Defense turned quickly to offense as South Carolina became the running team head coach Dawn Staley had promised.
Ieasia Walker got the spurt started with a transition layup and converted the free throw to give South Carolina a four-point lead, its largest to that point, just over three minutes into the second half. Jewel May hit a pair of free throws after drawing a foul in the point, and Marah Strickland delivered another traditional three-point play after a steal by Markeshia Grant. Ashley Bruner hit two free throws after being fouled pulling in one of her five offensive rebounds of the night, and Charenee Stephens capped the run with a layup from the right block when Grant found her cutting through the lane.
The Illini got a bucket from Alexis Burke to stop the bleeding, but Strickland and Stephens added a pair of putbacks on the Gamecocks' next two possessions to push the lead to 46-31 with 9:40 left to play. South Carolina stretched its lead to as many as 23 on a Grant layup off a Bruner steal. Illinois stayed aggressive late in the game, rattling off 10 straight points, but it was not enough to close the gap.
Bruner collected her second-straight double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds, while Strickland led the team with 13 points. Walker joined the duo in double figures with 12 points, adding five assists and four steals to the total team effort.
South Carolina closes out its season-opening three-game homestand against in-state rival Clemson on Thu., Nov. 18, at 7 p.m. at Colonial Life Arena.