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SPORTS LIBRARY, S.C. State, basketball

For the second time in as many outings, the South Carolina State women let a double-digit lead slip away but unlike its Wednesday outing against USC Upstate when the Lady Bulldogs came back to win, Coach Audra Smith’s team dropped a 50-58 decision to visiting Winthrop Saturday.

The Lady Bulldogs built an 11-point 38-27 lead on a Jakayvea Akins 3-pointer with 5:03 left in the third period but was outscored 31-12 by the Eagles the rest of the way in loss, which dropped S.C. State to 3-5.

Akins had 14 points, including a 3-3 performance from behind the arc, to lead the Lady Bulldogs. Jaqunna Murray chipped in eight points and seven rebounds and blocks each in the loss. Rhein Beamon and Kyesha added seven points each for S.C. State, which struggled with its shooting, making just 16-44 attempts from the field and missing 10 free throws, including five down the stretch.

“We basically let an 11-point lead slip away,” said a disappointed Smith. “When they made a run and hit two threes, I called a timeout. But after the timeout, we didn’t close out on their shooters and they continued their comeback and eventually tied the game.”

Winthrop, which improved to 2-5, was led by Essence Cowan, who came off the bench for 17 points and Miquela Santoro with 11 points.

After Smith’s team took its 38-27 third-period lead, Winthrop’s Kem Nwabudu got an inside basketball and reserve guard Sydney Buckley scored on a runner to pull the visitors to within 38-31 with 3:17 left in the quarter. Lewis made one of two free throws for the Lady Bulldogs at the 2:29 mark but the Eagles’ Maleeah Langstaff and Cowan canned back to back 3-pointers to bring Winthrop to within 39-37 after three.

Akins got the first basket of the final period to give SCSU a 41-37 edge but the Eagles fought back to tie the contest at 43-all on two Cowan free throws with 5:44 left on the clock.

“After Winthrop came back to tie, we didn’t respond well,” said Smith. “We became indecisive and didn’t execute well. We didn’t seem to know when to take the jumper or when to penetrate. We just seemed to lose our confidence. But, I have to give credit to Winthrop. They played well, dug themselves out of a hole and found a way to pull out a win.”

After the Eagles tied the contest at 43-43, Beamon made one of two free throws for a 44-43 S.C. State advantage with 5:09 left on the clock. There were two lead changes before Winthrop built a 52-46 lead on a 3-pointer by Cowan and a layup off a steal by Anika Riley with 2:19 remaining. The closest S.C. State got after that was four points – 54-50 – on an Akins 3-pointer with just 21.8 on the clock.

“We got a lot of work to do,” said Smith whose team led 28-23 at the half, “but thankfully, it’s a long season and we have time to get things together.”

S.C. State returns to action Monday when they host Bob Jones at 5:30 p.m. in the third of a five-game home stand.

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