Cooke, No. 1 South Carolina women beat Tennessee 73-60


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — 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. 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 first 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.


South Carolina: The Gamecocks have been on top of the poll for 35 weeks, while winning 33 straight games. That’s third-most all-time behind UConn (51 weeks) and Louisiana Tech (36). … Sunday’s overtime escape from Mississippi State cost South Carolina one No. 1 vote this week, keeping the Gamecocks from being a unanimous selection for the first time all season. No. 2 Indiana got the one vote.

Tennessee: The Lady Vols have now lost to each of the top five teams in the poll. That statistic makes it easy to understand how they have to toughest schedule in the country.


South Carolina: Since 1981-82, the NCAA Tournament era, only nine teams have had unbeaten seasons. UConn has done it six times and Baylor, Tennessee and Texas have done it once. … Ten of the 14 players on the Gamecocks’ roster are at least 6 feet tall.

Tennessee: Despite having three conference losses, the Lady Vols have locked up a double-bye for the SEC Tournament. … Horston came into the game with 427 assists, two behind Kristen Clement for No. 10 all-time in the Tennessee record book. … Tennessee junior Tess Darby has been named to the SEC Community Service Team for her involvement in a service trip to Rwanda through the university.


South Carolina: Georgia will visit South Carolina on Sunday. Earlier this year, the Gamecocks beat the Bulldogs by 17 points.

Tennessee: The Lady Vols will close out their regular-season schedule at Kentucky on Sunday. The two teams have not met this season.


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