|SUNDAY WOMEN'S HOOPS SCHEDULE
|South Carolina 69, Florida 57
|Tennessee 56, Missouri 50
|Arkansas 57, LSU 53
|Kentucky 83, Texas A&M 74
|Mississippi State 72, Ole Miss 70 (OT)
|Auburn 67, Georgia 59
|Alabama 66, Vanderbilt 62
No. 4/6 Gamecocks Earn 69-55 Win Over Florida
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- No. 4/6 South Carolina outlasted Florida in a gritty 69-55 victory Sunday afternoon at Colonial Life Arena in front of a season-best crowd of 10,547. The Gamecocks (25-2, 13-1 SEC) struggled to shoot the ball in the second half, but their defense held up until the offense found its stride again to close the game on an 11-4 run. Tiffany Mitchell shook off a slow start to finish with 20 points, including 14 in the second half, while Alaina Coates notched her eighth double-double of the season with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
“Tiffany [Mitchell] is a player,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. “She’s not going to play perfect basketball every time, but when you’re able to handle adverse situations – like not playing up to par in the first half – and come back and play the way she did in the second, that’s when you know you are a player that can turn the page, that can bounce back and put us on her back from an offensive standpoint and get us a win.”
South Carolina got off to a slow start in front of the second-largest crowd ever at Colonial Life Arena, but Mitchell got the offense started on a 10-0 run with a pull-up jumper with 17:43 to go in the first half. Aleighsa Welch took care of the boards throughout the surge, adding drive to the rim to the pair of blocks from Elem Ibiam in two successive Florida possessions. Ibiam’s hook was followed by a Coates move on the right block that gave the Gamecocks an 8-7 lead with 15:31 to play in the half. After a spate of empty possessions from both teams, Welch capped the run with a jumper off an out-of-bounds play with just one second left on the shot clock.
The Gators finally scored, 7:37 after the end of their initial 7-0 run to start the game, but the Gamecocks maintained the lead, closing the half on a 13-5 run to take a 32-22 advantage into the locker room.
South Carolina’s lead stretched to 16 seven minutes into the second half behind a 6-0 run that included free throws from Welch, a drive from Mitchell and an inside bucket from Coates. Florida answered, though, forcing a series of turnovers and outside shots to launch an 11-2 run over the next six minutes to pull within seven at 41-48 with 7:03 to play.
The Gamecocks settled down and went back to their top two scorers. Welch hit a free throw, and Mitchell answered a Florida putback with a 3-pointer from the left corner. Florida kept the pressure on, staying within four at 54-47 with 4:01 to play. South Carolina found a seam to Coates, and the freshman hit from the right block, then came up with a defensive rebound on the other end. Her quick outlet pass found Welch streaking up the court for an easy transition layup to make it a 58-47 game with just a minute later.
With Florida putting the Gamecocks on the free throw line as the game drew to a close, South Carolina hit seven of their 10 opportunities to hold off the Gators and earn the victory.
Throughout the game, South Carolina made it difficult for the Gators in the paint, tallying 11 blocks. Coates swatted five of the total, tying a career high and Gamecock freshman record. Florida shot just 25.0 percent from the field in the first half, and the Gamecock defense held them to 19-of-59 for the game at 32.2 percent. Welch joined Mitchell and Coates in double figures with 12 points.
Today’s win and Texas A&M’s loss to Kentucky, the Gamecocks have clinched at least a share of the SEC regular-season title. It is South Carolina’s first in the SEC and their sixth conference championship in school history (five in Metro Conference).
“It feels great; it really does,” Staley said about clinching a share of the title. “The kids are working extremely hard to put us in this position. Not only the current ones, but the former ones who got their heads beat in (winning just two SEC games) six years ago and started the building process. It feels great to do what most people thought could never be done here at South Carolina. It’s a great day to be a Gamecock, and certainly we want to continue to take care of what we can take care of. And, if we can get it (winning the title outright) done on Thursday, I think it will be a wonderful thing.”
South Carolina is back on action on Thu., Feb. 26, for its final home game of the season, facing Georgia at 7 p.m. at Colonial Life Arena. The Gamecocks will honor their lone senior, Wilka Montout, prior to tipoff.
No. 10 Lady Vols Fend Off Mizzou, 56-50
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- A year after suffering an upset defeat at Missouri, Tennessee withstood a pesky Tigers team to win 56-50 on Sunday afternoon. The 10th-ranked Lady Vols improved to 22-5 overall and 11-3 in the SEC while Missouri is now 16-11 and 5-9 in the league.
Meighan Simmons led Tennessee with 20 points while Bashaara Graves added 11 as the only other Lady Vol in double-figures. Isabelle Harrison had just five points -- but the final four iced the victory.
Missouri was led by Bri Kulas (22) and Morgan Eye (15) as the Tigers overcame 29.2 percent shooting from the floor (19-of-65). Mizzou, known for proficiency from 3-point range, made just 21.9 percent (7-of-32).
The Tigers trailed by as many as 16 in the second half. But, they made a late charge to come within three points at 50-47 on a jumper by Kulas with 1:20 left in regulation.
Missouri had a chance to tie the game in the final minute as Sierra Michaelis' 3-pointer didn't fall with 34 seconds on the clock.
Isabelle Harrison, who was mired in foul trouble all game, knocked down two free throws with 34.7 seconds left - to give the Lady Vols a two-possession lead, 52-47 -- and secure the victory. Those were just the second and third points of the game for Harrison.
After Missouri missed a layup, Cierra Burdick grabbed the loose ball giving the Lady Vols possession. Andraya Carter was fouled and missed the ensuing free throw. But the Lady Vols got the rebound again and Harrison converted two more free throws for the victory.
Kulis banked in a desperation 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds for Missouri's final points of the day. Simmons closed the game with a pair of foul shots for the final 56-50.
Tennessee outrebounded Missouri, 48-35 as both Mercedes Russell (11) and Isabelle Harrison (10) had double-figure boards.
The Lady Vols led a low-scoring first half, 25-22. Tennessee's defense limited Mizzou to 2-of-15 on 3-pointers and just 28.6 percent over the first 20 minutes.
Simmons led all scorers with 10 points in the first half while Russell had eight first-half boards.
Jackson Leads Razorbacks Back From 15 Down To Upset LSU
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Led by a game-high 25 points from freshman Jessica Jackson, the University of Arkansas women's basketball team (18-9, 5-9 SEC) climbed back after trailing by as much as 15 points and upset No. 19/18 LSU (18-9, 7-7 SEC) in a 57-53 final at Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Sunday.
Jackson finished 47.3 percent from the field and scored 20 of her 25 points in the second half alone behind a career-high five 3-pointers. The win marked the first road win over a ranked team for the Razorbacks since beating No. 6/7 Tennessee in OT in Knoxville (2-23-12).
Shooting struggles were the story of the first half for the Razorbacks, who finished just 23 percent (7-for-30) from the floor. Jackson led the team with five points, but was just 1-for-4 from 3-point range. LSU also out-rebounded UA 29-to-15 in the first half, including 13 rebounds coming off the offensive glass alone. Despite poor shooting, a 7-0 run late in the first half helped the Razorbacks settle in, breathe easier and cut the LSU lead to 16-10 by the 6:05 mark. UA's shooting improved to 16 percent (3-for-19), as Jackson and Keira Peak led the team with three points a piece. LSU missed three straight field goals over the stretch and were forced into four turnovers by the UA defense. Melissa Wolff came off the bench late in the half and got scrappy inside, coming up with two big, offensive rebound putbacks and helping UA hang in the game at 21-14 with 3:30 to play in the half.
An 8-2 run led single handedly by Theresa Plaisance helped LSU extend its lead to a commanding 27-14 mark with just over a minute to play in the half. A 3-pointer from Calli Berna helped give UA a little momentum and make it just a 10-point deficit heading into the locker room.
In the second half, Arkansas put together a 9-0 run to help trim the lead to single digits at 32-26 with 15:30 to play. Bria Pitts came off the bench and had an impact in the push, finding her range from outside and scoring an SEC career-high nine points on the day in 15 minutes. Jackson and the Razorbacks continued to climb back into the game, as Jackson led an 8-0 run that included back-to-back triples from the freshman to give UA its first lead at 42-39 with 6:09 to play. A contested game down the stretch, it was Jackson who rose to the occasion and took over, as the Hogs pulled out the upset behind 20 second-half points from the freshman.
No. 15 Kentucky Gets by No. 16 A&M, 83-74
Courtney Walker scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds but the 16th-ranked Aggies were unable to take down No. 15 Kentucky, falling 83-74 before a season-high crowd of over 7,343 at Reed Arena.
Walker tied her career-high in points and set a career-high in rebounds to notch her first career double double. She had her seventh 20+ point scoring game of the season and the 11th of her career.
Williams joined Walker in double figures, scoring 16 points. Both have been in double figures for five straight games.
The attendance of 7,343 was the 12th-largest crowd at Reed Arena for a women's game and the third crowd of 7,000+ the Aggies have hosted this year. Seven of the largest 26 crowds in Reed Arena history have come during the Aggies' two-year tenure in the SEC.
Kentucky (20-7, 8-6 SEC) had the best game of any Aggie opponent this season, scoring the most points (83), grabbing the most rebounds (47) and shooting the highest (49.1%) of any A&M opposition this year.
Down 25-17 with 7:38 left in the first half, Texas A&M (21-7, 11-3 SEC) rallied to take a 32-30 lead with 3:27 until the half. However, Kentucky responded with a 9-2 run to take a 39-34 halftime lead.
The Aggies hung around in the second half, but Kentucky had an answer for every A&M rally. The Aggies fought back from an nine point deficit with 4:59 to play to cut the lead to three points with 2:38 left, but the Wildcats again closed the half strong, finishing on an 8-2 kick to ice the game.
A&M lost for just the second time in 14 games at home this season, and fell for only the third time since Dec. 22.
Alwal's Career Day Carries MSU Past Ole Miss In Overtime
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Mississippi State saved its best basketball for when it mattered most Sunday afternoon.
Playing an overtime session for a third time this season, the Bulldogs had the better finishing kick as MSU knocked off in-state rival Ole Miss 72-70 in a Southeastern Conference contest played before a crowd of 3,155 – ninth largest in the history of Humphrey Coliseum.
MSU rallied from a 13-point deficit to earn a season split with the archrival for a second straight year. MSU improved to 18-10 overall and 5-9 in league play, while Ole Miss fell to 10-18 and 1-13.
“It was one heck of a game,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “Any Mississippi State fan with a pulse knows the importance of playing the school up north and beating their butts. I think the biggest key today was the crowd. It really got us going. There was some tremendous energy in the building today.
“It’s a great day to be a Bulldog.”
In a battle of the two league’s premier players, neither disappointed. Valencia McFarland of Ole Miss led all scorers with 29 points. Schaefer said another key to the game was the defense of Savannah Carter on McFarland in the second half.
For MSU, Martha Alwal matched a career high with 25 points and set a career high with 23 rebounds, which included 11 offensive boards.
“This is the type of game that Martha is capable of,” Schaefer said. “We challenge her every game to go out and get 20 rebounds. We had been really working hard this week because we knew this was a game in which she could have that type of performance.”
Alwal said her coach’s motivation helped inspire the breakout performance, which goes down as her ninth double-double of the season and 28th of her career, the most among active SEC players. The 23 rebounds are the most by an SEC player in a single game this season and are fourth most in school history.
“I knew it was a team smaller than I was so I just tried to go out there and dominate,” Alwal said. “In the past, I have taken some plays off, so I tried to not do that tonight. I just wanted to concentrate and really play as well as I could.”
Ole Miss hit three 3-point baskets early and quickly built a 16-8 lead.
The Bulldogs eventually kicked it in gear and used a 9-2 run to pull within 18-17 after a jumper by Alwal with 12:00 left in the half.
Ole Miss reestablished a 30-21 lead with 6:34 left before halftime. A 3-point basket by Carter brought the Bulldogs back within 32-29.
A 3-point basket by McFarland ran the Ole Miss advantage to 42-35 at halftime.
Ole Miss continued the strong play to start the second half and ran the lead to 55-42 with 13:25 left in regulation.
“Basically, it was during one of the timeouts when I asked the girls if they had had enough,” Schaefer said. “I told them when they had had enough was when we were going to get back in the game. It says a lot about the competitive nature and resiliency of this team. Even on what was obviously not their best night, they kept competing and found a way to win.”
With the crowd at their side, the Bulldogs did indeed roar back. MSU pulled within five on a 3-pointer by Dominique Dillingham. The Bulldogs were within one on a Jerica James jumper at 62-61 with 5:38 left.
Down 64-61, the Bulldogs surged ahead with seven straight points. Two free throws by Breanna Richardson gave the Maroon and White their first lead since 4-2 at 66-64. Alwal followed with two free throws.
Still, a basket by Tia Faleru with 49 seconds left in regulation tied the contest and sent it into overtime.
“It was our third overtime game and we had lost the first two,” Carter said. “So I felt like it was our time to come out and win one of those.”
The Bulldogs did just that. Alwal scored a jumper in the lane to put the team ahead for good with 3:58 left in the extra period. Dillingham also scored in the extra period to push the lead to four.
Still, Ole Miss had the final shot in overtime as it did in regulation but an off-balanced 3-point attempt by Gracie Frizzell fell short.
For the contest, the Bulldogs hit 23 of 68 shots from the field (33.8 percent), 5 of 15 shots from 3-point range (33.3 percent) and 21 of 25 shots from the foul line (84.0 percent). The Rebels hit 26 of 65 shots from the field (40.0 percent),
Carter finished with 10 points for MSU. Faleru finished with 19 points for Ole Miss.
MSU hosts Kentucky at 7 p.m. Thursday in its final home game of the season. Senior Night festivities for Candace Foster and Katia May will be held prior to the contest.
Tyrese Tanner finishes strong as Auburn tops Georgia
AUBURN, Ala. -- Tyrese Tanner was a threat to miss her Senior Day, considering she only played three minutes in the first half because of, yet again, perplexing foul trouble.
But Tanner showed up in the second half, and in a big way, to score all of her 21 points to help Auburn beat Georgia 67-59 Sunday in Auburn Arena.
Tanner and Peyton Davis were honored on Senior Day and responded with a combined 24 points and 10 rebounds. A freshman gpt in the scoring act, too. Brandy Montgomery had 21 points, too.
Auburn, trying to improve its tournament stock, improved to 15-12 overall and 6-8 in the SEC with two regular-season games remaining. Georgia fell to 18-9 overall and 6-8 in the league.
Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy, who has protected Tanner from a barrage of first-half fouls this season, said she has "no idea why she gets in foul trouble." But Williams-Flournoy needs Tanner, the team's leading scorer, for the end, like when Auburn outscored Georgia 9-1 in the final 1:42.
"She's our go-to player. She's our best player," Williams-Flournoy said.
The game was played inside, considering the two teams combined to hit 4-of-32 3-point tries. Williams-Flournoy wanted credit for holding Georgia to 1-of-14 shooting from beyond the arc.
"We don't get props?" she asked with a smile. "They came into the game with all three of their guards shooting the ball extremely well, but we couldn't let the 3 beat us."
"I know," said guard Hasina Muhammad, "coach's philosophy is defense."
The philosophy worked this day. Auburn scored 34 points on Georgia's 24 turnovers.
The Tigers also got a boost by hitting 24-of-31 free throws, quite a feat considering the Tigers shot only one free throw in the first half.
"We shot 100 free throws after practice yesterday, so that got us pretty warm," said Muhammad.
Georgia led 29-28 at the half of a close game that featured 10 lead changes and 10 ties.
"We still missed layups, some box-outs," said Williams-Flournoy. But even when the layups happened, Auburn "didn't let it control both ends of the floor."
The Tigers can't rest on that, not with rival Alabama visiting Auburn Arena at 6 p.m. Thursday. The Tide may remember the first meeting this season: Auburn won 61-39.
"I'm sure Alabama wants to come in and cut our head off," said Williams-Flournoy. "It's an Alabama team that is playing really well right now.
Alabama Women’s Basketball Wins for the First Time in Program History at Vanderbilt
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Alabama women’s basketball team earned its first win in Memorial Gym on Sunday with a 66-62 victory over No. 25 Vanderbilt. The win for the Crimson Tide also snaps a 12-game losing streak to the Commodores that dated back to the 2004 season.
Alabama improves to 13-14 on the season and 6-8 in Southeastern Conference play, while the loss drops Vanderbilt to 18-9 overall and 7-7 in league play. The six wins in conference are the most for the Tide since it went 7-7 during the 2001-02 season.
Junior Daisha Simmons had a team-high 21 points in the win in addition to six rebounds and five assists. She was joined in double figures by freshman Ashley Williams, who had 18 points and six rebounds and senior Shafontaye Myers, who finished with 16 points. Junior Briana Hutchen had a team-best eight rebounds. The Commodores were led by senior Christina Foggie, who was the lone player for Vanderbilt to record double-digit points with 22.
Alabama had back-to-back threes from sophomore Nikki Hegstetter and Simmons to lead 6-4 early on. Vanderbilt would take a four-point edge shortly after, but a 13-2 run over the next 10 minutes by the Tide put Alabama up 21-14 with 5:09 to play. The Commodores would tie the game at the 3:50 mark as Foggie hit two of three attempts from the free throw line. The Tide went on to outscore Vanderbilt 8-2 in the half, which included four points for Myers.
In the second half, Alabama extended its lead to 10 after Simmons drilled a three-pointer at the 18:16 mark, however Vanderbilt would use a 14-4 run over the next four minutes to tie the game at 39. The Tide brought its lead back out to nine, but the Commodores would, again, chip away and cut their deficit to one point with 3:20 to go. On the next possession, Williams converted a pivotal three-point play, which sparked the final run for Alabama to secure the victory.
For the game, the Tide was 47.3 percent (26-55) from the floor, while the Commodores were 42.9 percent (24-56) overall. Vanderbilt out-rebounded Alabama 35-32.
Next up, Alabama will play its final road game of the regular season at Auburn on Thursday, Feb. 27. Tipoff is slated for 6 p.m. CT in Auburn Arena.
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