Cooke, Boston lead No. 1 Gamecocks to 87-23 win over Bucs
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Zia Cooke scored 16 points, Aliyah Boston had 10 points and 13 rebounds for her 67th career double-double and No. 1 South Carolina steamrolled Charleston Southern 87-23 on Sunday.
The Gamecocks opened 11-0 for the second straight season and the fourth time in coach Dawn Staley’s 15 seasons in charge.
Talaysia Cooper added 14 points while midyear enrollee Chloe Kitts had 10 points and seven rebounds in her college debut.
This one appeared to be a mismatch from the start and quickly played out that way. South Carolina scored the first 11 points and rolled out to a 20-3 lead after the first quarter.
Charleston Southern (2-9), shooting less than 33% all season, struggled even more against the Gamecocks’ smothering defense. The Buccaneers hit just one of 13 attempts during the quarter, then were held without points for the first nine minutes of the second before hitting a foul shot and Saniya Jones’ short shot with 32 seconds left before the break.
South Carolina, which is ranked third nationally with 50.4 rebounds a game, dominated the Bucs in that category, too. The Gamecocks held a 14-1 edge in offensive boards in the first half and outrebounded the Bucs 53-22.
Boston, who came up short on double-doubles in the past two games, made sure not to miss her chance to close in on the program’s all-time mark of 72 held by Sheila Foster, set from 1979-82.
While Boston continued her dominant present, the Gamecocks got a glimpse of the future with Kitts.
The 6-foot-2 freshman is a five-star recruit who finished high school early to enroll this month. Staley said Kitts didn’t join the team to sit on the bench, and she proved that in her first game. Kitts was active on both ends of the floor, finishing a fast break off a pass from fellow freshman Talaysia Cooper and connecting on her only 3-pointer. She also had two steals and two assists in her 23 minutes.
Zaire Hicks led Charleston Southern with eight points.
Charleston Southern: The Buccaneers have struggled this season, getting outscored in their nine losses by an average of more than 38 points. They hope the rugged schedule has them ready for Big South Conference play, which starts later this month.
South Carolina: It’s not often the country’s No. 1 team and defending national champion can add a player like Kitts at midseason. Kitts looked smooth and confident in her first time hitting the floor and can be a burst off the bench the rest of the way.
Charleston Southern faces Gardner-Webb at home on Dec. 29.
South Carolina takes on another in-state opponent in Coastal Carolina on Wednesday.
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