Sessions, Lady Gamecocks knock off No. 5 Kentucky

Myrtle Beach High product and Lady Gamecocks freshman Khadijah Sessions scored eight points and helped spark a critical late run as No. 18 South Carolina outlasted No. 5 Kentucky 55-50 in a hard-fought, physical battle at the Colonial Life Arena.

Gamecock senior guard Ieasia Walker played every second of the contest and carried her team to the program’s highest ranked victory since 1998, finishing with 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals and a blocked shot. Sophomore center Elem Ibiam also reeled in eight boards, largely during a second-half surge that pushed the Gamecocks (17-3, 5-2 SEC) into the driver’s seat in the game.

“The crowd was a huge lift for us when we weren’t scoring as much as we’d like, but we were still getting good looks,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. “Sometimes it’s exhausting to play as hard as we play defensively, and it takes the wind out of you. I really think the crowd put the life back in us, and we made some big plays down the stretch. We just fed off the energy that was in the building.”

The Gamecock defense, highlighted by strong rebounding on the defensive glass held Kentucky under control early in the game until the offense found a rhythm midway through the first half. Ibiam got a 9-0 run started with her basket that was followed by back-to-back buckets from Walker, starting with a transition layup and ending with a pull-up jumper that tied the score at 12-12 with 5:58 left in the period. Aleighsa Welch added a free throw and Khadijah Sessions turned a steal into an easy layup to put the Gamecocks up 15-12 with four minutes to go. Kentucky looked to rally behind a pair of buckets from Jennifer O’Neill, but the teams went to the locker room tied 19-19.

Coming out at the half the teams continued to keep the score tight. The Wildcats opened with a 6-0 run that the Gamecocks answered with a 7-0 spurt that included a Tiffany Mitchell 3-pionter, a Welch basket and a transition layup from Walker that put South Carolina back on top 26-25 less than four minutes into the final period.

The teams traded the lead seven times over the next four minutes until the Wildcats took advantage of consecutive turnovers to stretch their advantage to 40-34 with 11:37 on the clock. Once again, South Carolina had the answer. A Walker steal turned into an Ashley Bruner transition layup, and a Welch steal yielded a pair of free throws from Walker to pull within two at 40-38.

A DeNesha Stallworth drive only briefly interrupted what would turn out to be a 10-2 Gamecock surge. Ibiam’s putback kicked off the last of the run, and it was followed by one from Welch. A pair of missed opportunities at the free throw line kept the Wildcats scoreless, and Sessions hit a baseline floater to make it a 44-42 South Carolina advantage with 6:01 to play.

A pair of A’dia Mathies free throws tied the game for the sixth time, 44-44, with 5:53 on the clock, but the Gamecocks were running again as their aggressive defense wore down and frustrated the visiting Wildcats. Ibiam took a lob underneath and made a strong move to the bucket to open up an 8-0 run. Her powerful defensive rebound on the next possession set the tone down the stretch.

After missing the front end of a 1-and-1, Bruner hit a free throw on the next trip up the floor. Sessions converted another transition layup to stretch the lead to five, and after a defensive rebound by Walker, Welch converted a traditional three-point play for an eight-point edge, 52-44 with 3:32 to go.

The Wildcats kept after it, forcing back-to-back turnovers, but the Gamecocks continued to force them into just one shot per possession, making it difficult to make up ground quickly. Mathies tried to carry her team to the win, scoring Kentucky’s last six points, but it was not enough as the Gamecocks sealed the game at the free throw line in the final 22 seconds.

“All the credit needs to go to South Carolina tonight,” Kentucky head coach Matthew Mitchell said. “…South Carolina came out extremely physical, and we just didn’t respond in a manner that would allow us to win this game. They made all the hustle plays and were really tough tonight. …They just played really good D and were committed to stopped [A’dia Matheis] and really just all-around fantastic defense. I don’t know that that is extraordinary for a team like South Carolina who is so good on defense.”

Walker’s 16 points led the way, and Welch added 11, including eight in the second half. The Gamecocks out-scored the Wildcats 30-18 in the paint and forced 18 turnovers to help hold Kentucky just short of 30 points below its season average. South Carolina shot 50.0 percent from the field in the second half and hit 10 free throws to deliver the victory.

The Gamecocks go back on the road this weekend, heading to Arkansas for a 3 p.m. tipoff on Sun., Jan. 27.

Photo courtesy of USC Athletics

Comments

comments

Boys Hoops: Green breaks CA record; Braves beat CF

Boys Hoops: Green breaks CA record; Braves beat CFChristian Academy of Myrtle Beach junior Michael Green reached another [more]

Lady Panthers' second-half surge knocks off Socastee

Lady Panthers' second-half surge knocks off SocasteeThe Carolina Forest High girls basketball team broke up a [more]

Earnhardt clears air about interest in buying Panthers

Earnhardt clears air about interest in buying PanthersRetired NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he is interested [more]

CCU's Ruiz picked to play in Latin America Amateur

CCU's Ruiz picked to play in Latin America AmateurCoastal Carolina junior golfer Luis Ruiz has been selected to [more]

CAC swimmers clean up on medals at Tiger Invitational

CAC swimmers clean up on medals at Tiger InvitationalThe Coastal Aquatic Club (CAC) sent 37 swimmers to compete [more]

MB grad Sessions waived during 11th NBA season

MB grad Sessions waived during 11th NBA seasonFor the first time since his high school days at [more]

Horry/Georgetown Invite: CF, NMB, MB finish 1-2-3

Horry/Georgetown Invite: CF, NMB, MB finish 1-2-3The Carolina Forest High wrestling team captured the bi-county championship [more]

Battle at the Beach: MB makes it rain 3s; CA falls

Battle at the Beach: MB makes it rain 3s; CA fallsOn Friday night, a leaky roof forced the Myrtle Beach [more]

CCU Hoops: Coastal splits with visiting Georgia State

CCU Hoops: Coastal splits with visiting Georgia StateArtur Labinowicz scored a career, team and game-high 32 points, [more]

Hoops: Chiefs, Tigers use last-second shots for wins

Hoops: Chiefs, Tigers use last-second shots for winsNorth Myrtle Beach High's Cooper Chandler picked the right time [more]

MB Winter Bump tourney expects record crowd, field

MB Winter Bump tourney expects record crowd, fieldThe annual Myrtle Beach Winter Bump Volleyball Classic, hosted by [more]

Knaffle garners SCCAWS Player of the Year award

Knaffle garners SCCAWS Player of the Year awardSt. James High junior Smith Knaffle may need to add [more]

CCU Hoops: Chants split Sun Belt twinbill with GSU

CCU Hoops: Chants split Sun Belt twinbill with GSUJaylen Shaw moved into 13th place on the Coastal Carolina [more]

North Myrtle Beach boys, girls cruise past St. James

North Myrtle Beach boys, girls cruise past St. JamesThe North Myrtle Beach boys and girls basketball teams swept [more]

Wrestling: Locals earn top rankings; Chiefs take two

Wrestling: Locals earn top rankings; Chiefs take twoThe latest rankings were released Tuesday for SCHSL wrestling, but [more]

Boys Hoops: Socastee, Conway win region debuts

Boys Hoops: Socastee, Conway win region debutsThe Socastee High boys basketball team won a thrilling Region [more]

Girls Hoops: Seahawks knock off No. 1 Wilson

Girls Hoops: Seahawks knock off No. 1 WilsonThe Myrtle Beach High girls basketball team saw region rival [more]

CCU student-athletes post top semester in classroom

CCU student-athletes post top semester in classroom A record 264 Coastal Carolina student-athletes posted at least a [more]

Riptides make successful plunge at Polar Bear meet

Riptides make successful plunge at Polar Bear meetRiptides Racing's swimmers braved the cold weather and icy roads [more]

Local teams break ice with region rivals, reschedules

Local teams break ice with region rivals, reschedulesThe new year is only one week old and already [more]

Panthers suffer tough loss to Saints, face uncertainty

Panthers suffer tough loss to Saints, face uncertaintyThe Carolina Panthers' season ended in a heap atop sacked [more]

Ragin' Cajuns sweep CCU in Sun Belt doubleheader

Ragin' Cajuns sweep CCU in Sun Belt doubleheaderCoastal Carolina faced the top men’s basketball team in the [more]

Moglia announces return to role as CCU head coach

Moglia announces return to role as CCU head coachCoastal Carolina’s Joe Moglia announced he has been medically cleared [more]

CCU men, women see rally bids halted by Warhawks

CCU men, women see rally bids halted by WarhawksAfter trailing by as many as 21 points, Coastal Carolina [more]

Winter weather puts chill on local sports schedule

Winter weather puts chill on local sports scheduleThe winter weather didn't waste anytime scrambling the 2018 sports [more]

Boys Hoops: Green breaks CA record; Braves beat CF

Boys Hoops: Green breaks CA record; Braves beat CFChristian Academy of Myrtle Beach junior Michael Green reached another [more]

Lady Panthers' second-half surge knocks off Socastee

Lady Panthers' second-half surge knocks off SocasteeThe Carolina Forest High girls basketball team broke up a [more]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2017 Grand Strand Sports Report · RSS
Myrtle Beach Web Design
Kayaking in Myrtle Beach