FLORIDA WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

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Published: Friday, January 31, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 31, 2003 at 2:12 a.m.
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South Carolina's Cristina Ciocan, left, and Florida's Brittany Davis fight for control of the ball during in the first half Thursday in Columbia, S.C. The Gators fell to 0-6 in the conference.

(AP Photo)
COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina looked outside Thursday night and found a different way to win.
With Florida packing the middle to slow down Southeastern Conference leading scorer Jocelyn Penn, the 16th-ranked Gamecocks used their long-range shooting to hit a season-high nine 3-pointers to defeat the Gators 78-64.
"We want our players to step up and shoot the ball when they're open," Gamecocks coach Susan Walvius said. "I want them confident, I want them all to catch, square, take a look at the rim. They did that tonight."
Particularly Cristina Ciocan and Kelly Morrone with three 3-pointers each as South Carolina (15-4, 3-3 SEC) ended a two-game losing streak.
The Gamecocks went 9-of-29 from behind the arc, surpassing their 8-of-22 effort in a win over Alcorn State earlier this year.
Penn still finished with 19 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. Petra Ujhelyi also had a double-double for South Carolina with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
The Gators (8-11) have lost seven straight in coach Carolyn Peck's first season, tying the school mark set in 1979-80. They are 0-6 in the SEC for the first time since the 1986-87 team lost all nine of its league games.
"I'm familiar with being at the top, but no way do I feel we're at the bottom," said Peck, who won a national title with Purdue in 1999 before leaving to coach the WNBA's Orlando Miracle. "There are things out there every game that I can take away as little victories."
Peck's plan called for her five freshman starters - "I can't remember anyone doing that in the SEC," said Walvius, the Gamecocks sixth-year coach - to concede the long outside shots and cut off Penn's normally easy route to the basket and the foul line.
"It's about the percentages," said Peck. The Gamecocks were the league's seventh-best three-point shooting team coming in.
But right from the start, South Carolina was on target and hit its first five shots.
Kelly Morrone hit two 3-pointers as South Carolina broke on top 14-8. Sarah Burgess made two straight from behind the arc to grew to 22-10. Even Penn, the queen of transition baskets, got into the act with a straight-on three-point banker to make it 33-20.
"No, I didn't call bank," she said, laughing. "But I'll take it."
Ciocan picked up the touch in second half. She and Morrone had back-to-back 3s during a 8-0 run that made it 48-33. Ciocan's next one increased the lead to 53-35 with 13-:50 left and her last three minutes gave the Gamecocks their largest margin, 59-21.
"We know that everyone's going to try and stop Jocelyn," Ciocan said. "So we try and work on our shots and be ready to shoot with pressure."
Bernice Mosby led the Gators with 16 points.
The game marked the return of injured Florida junior Vanessa Hayden, who missed the past 10 games since breaking her left leg and spraining her left ankle on Dec. 7 against North Carolina State.
Hayden, averaging nearly 10 rebounds a game before she was hurt, had eight boards. But she couldn't shake off all the rust, going 2-of-10 from the floor and 1-of-4 from the free throw line for five points.
"I was excited to be out on the floor, to play basketball again," Hayden said. "Maybe a little too excited."
Walvius hopes her team's solid shooting continues enough to finish in the SEC's top four and earn a bye to the conference tournament in March. She figures four more wins, guaranteeing a .500 finish in the league, would likely lock up the team's NCAA spot. A Gamecock victory when Penn finishes 8 points below her average is a good sign, she said.
"Where we are, we're pleased with that," Walvius said. "Tonight, this was important."

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