Walker leads USC to win over LSU

pobley@thestate.comJanuary 17, 2013 

Ieasia Walker was flummoxed by her team’s performance on Sunday at Georgia. She knew the USC women’s basketball team had missed a golden opportunity for a huge road win against a ranked foe.

“I think she took the Georgia loss to heart,” USC coach Dawn Staley said. “And she did something about it.”

Whenever USC needed a big shot Thursday against LSU, Walker delivered. Whenever the Gamecocks needed a big stop at the other end, she picked LSU’s pockets. In the end, USC’s 66-59 victory was made possible in large part by Walker’s 24 points and five steals.

As USC improved to 15-3 overall and 3-2 in SEC play, Walker became the latest member of the Gamecock women’s 1,000-point club.

“I’m glad she got it tonight because we needed every single one of her points,” Staley said.

The Gamecocks seldom trailed, but LSU consistenly kept them on their toes by chasing them down every time they took a sizeable lead.

Each time, Walker was there to extinguish the Tigers’ momentum.

The most noteworthy moment came midway through the second half when LSU erased a 45-37 lead with nine consecutive points to move ahead by a point. Walker responded with a 3-point basket. Later, another 3-point bucket gave USC the lead for good, 53-50.

“I thought South Carolina did a great job of making plays when needing them,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said, adding later LSU could “take a lesson from a team that really gets after the ball.”

Though USC’s defense was not as suffocating as it was at Georgia, it did get all the necessary stops, forcing 18 turnovers, 10 by theft.

With Walker firing on all cylinders from the perimeter, post players Ashley Bruner and Aleighsa Welch found space among LSU’s big interior to do a little damage of their own. Bruner finished with a double-double, scoring 13 points with 12 rebounds. Welch added 14 points and seven boards.

Guard Tiffany Mitchell straddled the line between inside and out, driving the lane often en route to her 12 points.

The victory at Carolina Coliseum came 11 years to the day since the last women’s team defeat at the venerable arena. On Jan. 17, 2002, No. 3 Tennessee defeated a USC team that went on to the NCAA tournament’s Elite Eight.

The game was moved to the team’s former home because of a scheduling conflict with a Miranda Lambert concert at Colonial Life Arena.

“It was a good experience for me, first time playing in there,” Mitchell said. “But I can’t wait to get back to Colonial.”

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