South Carolina coach Dawn Staley anticipated a bit of a letdown after topping UConn earlier this week. She also expected her players to quickly get past it and perform like they have all season.
“It’s tough to come back from an emotional game like that,” Staley said. “But they found a way to get it done.”
Freshmen Aliyah Boston and Zia Cooke had 13 points apiece and the No. 1 Gamecocks overcame a sluggish start before rolling over Auburn 79-53 for their 18th straight victory on Thursday night at Colonial Life Arena.
Ty 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. The Gamecocks were surgical from beyond the arc in the first half, going 8-of-12 from 3-point range, including hitting their first five attempts in the opening 3:24 of the game.
The Gamecocks (24-1, 11-0 SEC) entered 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.
Cooke, part of South Carolina's No. 1 rated recruiting class last spring, acknowledged she and her teammates were pumped after the landmark win and struggled to find their form. The Gamecocks were 0-8 all time against UConn before this week.
“It wasn’t really crisp, but we did the best we could,” Cooke said. “We had a long week. But we got the job done and that's really all that matters.”
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.
“They’re the No. 1 team in the country and the No. 1 team is going to have their runs,” Auburn coach Terri Williams-Flournoy said.
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.
The Gamecocks’ 24-1 record matches the 2015-16 mark as the best start in program history.
Five Gamecocks scored in double figures for the 13th time this season.
The 10 made 3s for the Gamecocks were a season high in SEC play and the most since hitting 12 against USC Upstate (Nov. 21, 2019).
Cooke finished with 13 points and went 4-of-4 from beyond the arc, tying her high for 3s made in SEC play. Harris caught fire in the third quarter scoring 10 of her 12 points in the period. Herbert Harrigan notched 11 points, six of which came in the third, and pulled down six rebounds.
Saxton led the team in rebounding with eight, in blocks with four and steals with three. Her high energy play helped limit Auburn leading rebounder Unique Thompson four below her rebounding average. Grissett tied her season-high for points in a conference game with 11.