Boston, Cooke lead No. 1 Gamecocks to 79-53 win over Auburn

NCAA Basketball
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP)Freshmen Aliyah Boston and Zia Cooke had 13 points apiece and No. 1 South Carolina overcame a sluggish start before rolling over Auburn 79-53 for its 18th straight victory on Thursday night.

The Gamecocks (24-1, 11-0 Southeastern Conference) were coming off a decisive, 70-52 win over No. 5 UConn – their first ever against the dominant women’s program of the past 20 years – a few days earlier.

And it looked like the they just didn’t have the same juice early on in this one as Auburn (8-14, 2-9) trailed just 22-19 early in the second quarter. But South Carolina regrouped for a 20-4 burst to take a 42-23 halftime lead on the way to its 10th straight win over the Tigers.

Tyasha Harris had 12 points and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan had 11 for South Carolina.

Cooke had four of the Gamecocks’ 10 3-pointers, a high against SEC opponents this season.

South Carolina played before a sold-out, 18,000-fan arena on Monday night, an electric atmosphere that ramped up at every Gamecock basket or UConn miss.

It was clearly not the same at the start for Gamecock players or fans.

The Tigers scored 13 points in the opening quarter – the Huskies had just 2 on this floor Monday night – and after 3-pointers by Erin Howard and Robyn Benton to start the second period, trailed South Carolina by only three points.

That’s when Cooke and Boston, the Gamecocks talented freshmen, fueled a 20-4 surge over the final eight minutes before halftime.

Cooke hit her third 3-pointer to start the run, then added another to keep things going. Victaria Saxton had a three-point play before Boston scored seven straight to put the Gamecocks up 42-23 at the half.

South Carolina grew the lead to 70-30 early in the fourth quarter before Auburn cut into the margin down the stretch.

Benton finished with 15 points to lead the Tigers.

THE BIG PICTURE

Auburn: The Tigers appeared ready to hang tight with their more accomplished opponents. But Auburn did not have the personnel to slow down South Carolina inside or outside. The Gamecocks hit 6 of 8 3-pointers the first two quarters and Boston was dominant down low.

South Carolina: Coach Dawn Staley will have plenty to finetune after this. She had long preached for her team to stay locked in from the start. South Carolina instead gave up double-digit first-quarter points for just the second time in five games.

UP NEXT

Auburn returns home to play LSU on Sunday.

South Carolina plays its third of four straight home games against Vanderbilt Monday night.

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