Gamecocks Down No. 22 Lady Vols 69-48

Gamecocks Down No. 22 Lady Vols 69-48
Zia Cooke scored 20 points Sunday, and No. 1 South Carolina used its relentless defense to put away No. 22 Tennessee 69-48 for its 15th straight win. (Source: South Carolina Women's Basketball)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Zia Cooke scored 20 points Sunday, and No. 1 South Carolina used its relentless defense to put away No. 22 Tennessee 69-48 for its 15th straight win.

The Gamecocks (21-1, 9-0 Southeastern Conference) won for the sixth time in seven games against ranked opponents this season.

But South Carolina lost leading scorer and rebounder Aliyah Boston when she hobbled off the court in the third quarter. She came back to the bench with her right knee heavily wrapped and coach Dawn Staley patted the freshman on the head as the final period began.

Boston, who joked and chatted with teammates in the fourth, finished with 10 points, five rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

Tennessee (17-5, 7-2) had won its past two games at South Carolina. But it withered quickly under the Gamecocks' defensive pressure.

The Lady Vols hit just four of their first 16 shots and had six turnovers in the opening quarter to trail 21-9. They closed to nine points early in the third, but Boston had a basket and four foul shots to re-establish South Carolina's lead.

Tennessee shot just 34.6% (18 of 52) and finished with 21 turnovers.

Rennia Davis had 18 points and 10 rebounds for Tennessee, which lost its eighth straight to a No. 1 opponent since defeating LSU in 2005.

Tennessee, which came in averaging 16 turnovers a game, turned it over 11 times in the first 20 minutes and trailed 38-23 at break. It was its lowest scoring first half this season.

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: The Lady Vols seem to be on the right track under former star guard and first-year coach Kellie Harper. But Tennessee is still searching for the depth it needs to match up with the country's best teams, averaging only 48 points in losses to Stanford, South Carolina and UConn this season.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks look every bit the equal to the 2017 national champions. There are still tests ahead, including UConn at home on Feb. 10.

GAMECHANGERCarolina set the tone early once again with a 21-9 first quarter, and pushed the lead to 19 before the end of the first half. KEY STATThe Gamecocks won the turnover battle, forcing Tennessee into 21 while committing just six. South Carolina scored 28 points off those 21 Tennessee turnovers. NOTABLES

  • Carolina locked in early, holding Tennessee to nine first-quarter points, marking the 11th game in which the Gamecocks held their opponent to single digits in the first quarter, the sixth time it's happened in SEC play, and the third-consecutive game in which it's happened. 
  • Zia Cooke finished with 20 points, one shy of tying her career high in SEC play. It was her third 20-point SEC outing, matching A'ja Wilson for most by a Gamecock freshman. Cooke's production included four 3s.
  • Destanni Henderson celebrated her birthday by scoring nine of the Gamecocks' 18 third-quarter points.
  • Aliyah Boston notched 10 points to go with her five rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
  • Tyasha Harris dished out a season-best nine assists, pushing her program best career total to 628.
  • This marks the third straight Carolina win over Tennessee, tying the longest streak in the rivalry. Today's win also marked eight years to the day of Staley's first win over Tennessee (64-60 in Knoxville, 2/2/12)
  • The Gamecocks are 21-1, their best start since the 2015-16 squad opened the year 22-0.

UP NEXTThe Gamecocks (21-1, 9-0 SEC) hit the road for a showdown with Arkansas in Fayetteville on Thu., Feb. 6. The action is set to get underway at 8:30 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.