COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – Kelsey Bone had a successful return to South Carolina, the Texas A&M junior getting the game-winning basket with 8.7 seconds remaining as the 14th-ranked Aggies defeated the No. 15 Gamecocks 50-48 on Sunday.
Bone was the Southeastern Conference’s newcomer of the year in 2010 when she was a South Carolina freshman, a celebrated, centerpiece recruit to coach Dawn Staley’s young program. But after a year, Bone was homesick for her home state of Texas and chose to spend the rest of her college years with the Aggies.
Bone’s progress has continued. She stood second in the SEC in both scoring and rebounding and has Texas A&M (19-5, 9-1) fighting for a league championship in the Aggies’ debut conference season. Still, it was an emotional trip back to the Colonial Life Arena for Bone.
“My decision to leave was about me,” Bone said. “But coming back, I had the utmost respect for everybody involved That’s the same coaching staff that recruited me and some of the same players I played with.”
Bone shook it off as best she could, overcoming the Gamecocks defense — South Carolina tops the SEC in fewest points allowed — and pushing the Aggies to their seventh straight victory. Bone added 15 rebounds for her 11th double-double of the year and her fourth in SEC play.
“For me it was a little bit emotional, but I had to focus on the team I came into town with and our biggest goal was to get another SEC road win for our onward march to our goal of SEC Championships,” she said.
Bone prevailed through a difficult second half. She went more than 12 minutes without taking a shot and later in the period crashed hard to the floor, her head slamming against the court. But Bone got up and got focused. Her basket with 4:58 to go began Texas A&M’s 8-1 run to end the game. She then had two on-the-mark inside passes to teammate Karla Gilbert for easy buckets, the second one giving the Aggies a 48-47 lead.
Khadijah Sessions made a foul shot for South Carolina to tie things a final time at 48-all and set up Bone’s final basket.
Bone rebounded Adrienne Pratcher’s 3-point miss and confidently went up for the basket. The Gamecocks (20-4, 8-3) had a chance to answer back, but the 3-point attempt of Ieasia Walker — Bone’s former roommate here on campus — was off target. The Gamecocks’ six-game win streak came to an end.
Staley said Bone was another opponent whom her team did a good job defending. Bone’s 13 points came on 6-of-13 shooting and she did not get a single fastbreak basket, a prime part of A&M’s offense. “I thought we made it very difficult for her,” Staley said. “I don’t think she got anything easy.”
Pratcher and Courtney Walker each had 10 points for the Aggies, who were held to their second fewest points this season.
Walker led South Carolina with 16 points. The Gamecocks were just 18 of 64 from the field (28.1 percent) and were only 10 of 22 from the foul line.
How can Staley fix her team’s shooting struggles? “If I had the answer, we’d be sitting pretty right now,” she said.
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