Leading just 71-68 with under a minute to go, the Gamecocks needed a big shot to put away the N.C. State Wolfpack.
They got one in a big way from junior Samone Kennedy.
With the shot clock ticking down, the point guard drilled a three-pointer with 19 seconds left to give South Carolina a 74-68 lead that secured the win for the Gamecocks.
“I just remember watching the ball fly out of my hands,” said Kennedy. “I was thinking to myself, [Coach Dawn Staley] just said it’s time to score and if I miss this shot, I’m going to hear it big-time.”
Coach Staley’s response?
“She didn’t say anything at first. I just heard all of the assistant coaches saying ‘good shot,’ and she was looking away,” said Kennedy. “I looked at her and said ‘Coach, you know you want to give me a five on that one, you know you want to.’ She gave me a five and I gave the bench a five – it was just a really good feeling out there.”
“I was really happy for her, I wanted her to get a shot up,” said Staley. “I told her the basketball gods were on her side this time because she’s been working extremely hard for her basketball team and I’m just happy that good things are happening for her.”
Kennedy finished the game with a season-high 18 points with four assists and just one turnover.
Staley talked after the game about Kennedy’s growth at the point guard position.
“She’s made a conscious effort wanting to run our team this year better than she did last year,” said Staley. “She’s a warrior.”
Key Box Score
|Total FG-FGA||3 pt FG-FGA||FT-FTA||Rebs||Pts||Assts||TO||Blk||Stl||Min|
|G Valerie Nainima||12-25||3-7||0-1||5||27||0||3||1||2||38|
The junior guard had a career afternoon, scoring 27 points to lead all scorers. Her previous high was 22 points against Charlotte on Nov. 16. Nainima had career highs in points, field goals, field goal attempts and rebounds.
“After the first few shots, everything started hitting,” said Nainima. “We’re playing tit-for-tat with them and I was going to let them take over. I just wanted us to be in a good position to win the game.”
- The Gamecocks improved their record to 5-1 when three players (Nainima 27, Kennedy 18 and Bone 10) score in double figures.
- Nainima set the pace in scoring for a team-high fourth time this season. The Gamecocks are now 3-1 when she is the leading scorer.
- South Carolina forced 22 turnovers. The Gamecocks scored 28 points off Wolfpack turnovers.
- South Carolina was within 2 points of tying its season high for points scored off turnovers (season high is 30 vs. Clemson).
- The Gamecocks had their best offensive output in regulation play this season, scoring 74 points. Their season high in a game is 92 points which came in double overtime against Clemson.
“She’s a warrior – you want to be in the foxhole with Samone Kennedy.” – Head Coach Dawn Staley