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CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Zia Cooke scored 15 points and Aliyah Boston added 12 points and six rebounds in No. 1 South Carolina’s 85-31 victory over Clemson on Thursday night.
It was the Gamecocks’ 12th straight win over their rival.
Five-star freshman Ashlyn Watkins had 14 points, including a fourth-quarter, one-handed dunk that brought the South Carolina bench to its feet in celebration.
The Gamecocks (3-0) used smothering defense and on-target shooting to put away the Tigers (3-1) with a 16-2 run in the opening period to take control.
Clemson had no answers for the defending national champions, who shot 64% in the first 20 minutes while holding their opponent to 7 of 27 from the field to lead 46-16 at the break.
The highlight for Clemson came early — very early — when Brie Perpignan’s layup put the Tigers up 5-2 less than two minutes in. South Carolina then took off on a 16-2 run, making seven straight shots to take control.
Cooke came up slowly after one first-quarter collision and went to the bench. But after a few minutes with a muscle-loosening device on her left thigh, re-entered and continued her perfect half (she was 4 of 4) as she drained a 3-pointer right before the buzzer to end the first quarter.
But the Tigers went cold and missed 16 of their 18 second-quarter attempts. Clemson finished with the fewest points in a game in coach Amanda Butler’s five seasons.
South Carolina, who rely more on smothering defense than accurate outside shooting, had both in this one. The Gamecocks shot 68% the first 20 minutes and made all five of their 3-pointers.
Even Victaria Saxton, the 6-foot-2 forward known for her inside game, joined in the shooting party with her first collegiate 3-pointer in three career attempts just before halftime for a 30-point lead.
Cooke, Boston, Bree Beal and Saxton, all starters on last year’s NCAA title winners, sat out the final quarter with the game well in hand.
- Aliyah Boston moved into the No. 1 spot in the USC record books for consecutive starts (104)
- The Gamecocks take over the all-time series with 34 wins (34-33)
- With the victory, South Carolina secured a point in the Palmetto Series
- Kierra Fletcher saw her first start as a Gamecock, then proceeded to score the first bucket of the game
- South Carolina went on a 16-2 run in the first quarter, and defense forced two shot clock violations from the Tigers
- Offense remained strong, going on a 15-0 run to start the second quarter and a 13-0 run to end the first half
- At the buzzer, Victaria Saxton scored her first career three on just her third ever attempt
- End of first half:
- 10 of 11 players scored
- Zia Cooke put up 12 points
- Team went 5-5 for threes
- Freshman Ashlyn Watkins scored 10 points in the second half, finishing with a new season and career high of 14 – including the program’s first ever dunk in its history
- South Carolina ended the game on a 15-2 run with 11 total scorers and three Gamecocks in double-digits:
- Cooke: 15
- Watkins: 14
- Aliyah Boston: 12