Cooke, No. 1 Gamecocks overcome slow start to down UT
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Zia Cooke scored 19 points and Kierra Fletcher had 15 as No. 1 South Carolina spoiled Tennessee's pack-the-paint strategy in a 73-60 victory Thursday night.
The Gamecocks (28-0, 15-0 Southeastern Conference) clinched at least a tie for the regular-season conference title.
The Lady Volunteers (20-10, 12-3) jammed the middle, trying to limit opportunities for star Aliyah Boston and daring the Gamecocks to beat them from the perimeter. Boston finished with 11 points.
Fletcher and Cooke combined to hit 5 of 8 3-pointers, with Cooke scoring all of her points after being held scoreless in the first quarter.
The Gamecocks dominated the rebounding 48-34, with 20 of them on the offensive glass. Kamilla Cardoso had 15 boards and Brea Beal had 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Rickea Jackson scored 21 points for Tennessee, which led 19-10 after the opening quarter. Jordan Horston had 14 points and 11 rebounds and Karoline Striplin added 11 points.
Nine straight third-quarter points, five by Fletcher, turned a close game into a double-digit difference.
South Carolina had a 17-point run in the second quarter as it rallied from 10 down to later take a 33-29 halftime lead. Cooke scored eight straight points in that stretch.
The Lady Vols were held scoreless for more than 6 minutes before Striplin hit a 3-pointer just before the break.
The Gamecocks went the final 4:44 of the first quarter without scoring as Tennessee built a 19-10 lead.
- The Gamecocks turned the tide in the second quarter after a 19-10 deficit, going on a 17-0 run and outscoring the Lady Vols 23-10 to establish a four point lead at the half. South Carolina's defense did the work, forcing four turnovers and grabbing 18 rebounds in the period.
- Cooke led the way offensively for the 14th time in 28 games this season, going on her own 8-0 run in the second quarter with back-to-back threes, and scoring the next 11 of her 19 points in the second half on 5-of-8 shooting from the field and knocking down her third three of the game.
- Kierra Fletcher had a dominant night, putting up a new SEC career-high 15 points highlighted by going 2-of-2 from the 3-point line and scoring five in an 8-0 run by the Gamecocks to end the third quarter.
- Brea Beal recorded the second double-double of her career, posting 11 points and 11 rebounds, with her six offensive boards tying a career high ... Her five assists marked the 11th time this season having lead the team in the category.
- Aliyah Boston tallied her 13th double-digit game within the last 14, scoring the first four points of the game for South Carolina and securing a team-high four blocks on the night