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Saturday May 28th, 2016 4:06AM

Houts leads No. 24 Georgia to victory

By The Associated Press
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Ashley Houts scored 21 points, making all seven of her shots from the field, and No. 24 Georgia rebounded from its monthlong slide with a 65-49 victory over South Carolina on Thursday night.

The Lady Bulldogs (21-7, 8-7 Southeastern Conference) came into this one having lost six of eight, a skid that included its first loss to the Gamecocks in eight years.

However, with Houts in control, Georgia used a 9-2 run to start the second half and pull away to victory.

Jasmine James had 15 points and Porshia Phillips 13 for the Bulldogs, who finish the regular season Sunday at home against Arkansas before the SEC tournament in Duluth, Ga.

Valerie Nainima had 18 points off the bench to lead South Carolina (13-14, 6-9), which has lost four straight since surprising the Bulldogs in Athens, Ga., on Feb. 7.

Houts closed the first half with a driving basket for a 29-25 lead at the break and the Lady Bulldogs kept up the pressure when play resumed. Jasmine Hassell began the period with a bucket and Meredith Mitchell followed with another to push Georgia's lead to 33-25. After James added a jumper, Houts made a 3-pointer that put her team up 38-29.

South Carolina got as close at 45-40 on Kelsey Bone's inside basket. Houts, though, followed with a free throw, James had two jumpers and Houts made her third 3-pointer to make it 53-42.

Georgia came in hoping to stop the stunning freefall it experienced the past five weeks.

The Lady Bulldogs looked as though they were the class of the SEC after beating powerhouse Tennessee 53-50 on Jan. 21 to improve to 18-1.

That's when things fell apart as Georgia lost six of its last eight games to drop from the top 10 to nearly out of the national rankings. That included a loss to South Carolina, who hadn't beaten Georgia since 2002.

The Lady Bulldogs tried to erase the memory of that defeat quickly in this one, Houts scoring 4 points as they ran out to an 11-4 lead. However, like most leads Georgia's had the past month, this one disappeared, too.

Nainima hit three consecutive 3-pointers, the last that tied it at 21.

Houts sent the Lady Bulldogs into the break ahead 29-25 when she drove the lane for a bucket with 26.7 seconds left.

South Carolina looked as if it was on a path to the NCAA tournament bubble in coach Dawn Staley's second season after ending its nine-game losing streak to Georgia earlier this month. However, the Gamecocks had dropped their past three games and would need enormous luck down the stretch to make the field.
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