South Carolina women's basketball shot a season-best 50 percent from the field in a complete team effort for a 75-53 win over Charleston Southern at Colonial Life Arena Wednesday morning.
With a few thousand area elementary school children on hand to celebrate their participation in the Read with the Gamecocks program, South Carolina (3-4) established a post presence early and maintained that efficiency throughout the game. Junior forward Charenee Stephens collected 10 of her game-high 18 points in the game's first eight minutes, and she ripped down a career-best 13 rebounds, including nine on the offensive end.
Stephens was the beneficiary of the Gamecocks' rare height advantage against the Buccaneers as the South Carolina guards continually found angles to feed the ball inside. None more active in that category than junior La'Keisha Sutton, who handed out a career-high eight assists for the game to go with her 13 points.
After Charleston Southern came back from an early deficit to close the South Carolina lead to one point at 17-16 with just under 12 minutes to play in the first half, the Gamecocks scored the game's next 13 points. The surge was dominated by Marah Strickland's two 3-pointers and a pair of free throws. Four straight points by Ieasia Walker in the waning minutes of the half helped the Gamecocks to a 39-24 lead at the half.
In the second half, the Buccaneers twice drew within seven points to put a scare into the Gamecocks. Kelsey Wasmer hit a 3-pointer from the left wing four minutes into the final period to pull her team to 44-37. Stephens hit a bucket from the right block to spark a 7-0 surge, which included her putback of a missed free throw, to give the Gamecocks a 51-37 margin. Charleston Southern was not done, however, responding with a 7-0 run of its own behind five points - a 3-pointer from the left sideline and a transition layup - from Shay Jones.
From there, the South Carolina guards took the reins. Sutton scored on a baseline drive, Walker drilled a 3-pointer from the right sideline and Strickland matched it with a 3 from the left corner to put the Gamecocks up 59-44 with just over nine minutes to go, and the Buccaneers would getno closer.
Stephens' 18 points led all scorers, while Strickland, Sutton and Walker joined her in double figures with 16, 13 and 12 points, respectively. The Gamecocks handed out a season-high 18 assists while tying their season-low with 13 turnovers. Sophomore Ashley Bruner blocked a career-best four shots, accounting for half of South Carolina's total in that category. Nine of Stephens' career-high 13 boards came on the offensive end as she accounted for half of the Gamecocks' total in that category.
South Carolina continues its homestand on Sunday at 1 p.m. against Savannah State as the first half of a Gamecock basketball doubleheader.