Cooke leads No. 5 South Carolina to 103-41 win over Temple

Cooke leads No. 5 South Carolina to 103-41 win over Temple
The University of South Carolina Gamecocks, under the direction of coach Dawn Staley play The Temple Owls on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020 in the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, SC. (Source: Tracy Glantz)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Zia Cooke tied her career high with five 3-pointers and scored 23 points as No. 5 South Carolina powered past Temple 103-41 on Thursday night.

Cooke sparked a 7-0 run late in the first quarter to break a 14-14 tie and send the Gamecocks (5-1) to their second straight victory since having their 29-game win streak halted at home against No. 4 North Carolina State two weeks ago.

For Temple (0-3), it was the fourth straight loss against its former coach, South Carolina’s Dawn Staley, who got her college coaching start with the Owls in 2000.

Aliyah Boston had 14 points, nine rebounds and three blocks for the Gamecocks, who reached 100 points in two of their three home games this season.

South Carolina took control as Cooke got going in the final 90 seconds of the opening quarter. She drove for a basket before knocking down a 3-pointer after a steal by Brea Beal.

The Gamecocks kept the pressure on after that, outscoring Temple 23-11 to lead 44-25 at the half.

It was a much more satisfying showing than the last time the Gamecocks played at Colonial Life Arena, when South Carolina fell to North Carolina State 54-46 on Dec. 3.

Staley didn’t hold back after that, criticizing her team’s coachability and the players’ desire to put up any wild shot they could get. Her best postgame zinger that night was telling her team, which shot 10 percent in the second quarter of their first loss in more than a year, that she could be “blindfolded with defense” and shoot better.

Her players paid attention with a solid recovery at then No. 23 Iowa State a few days later, winning 83-65 in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.

Against Temple, the Gamecocks took another solid step forward with suffocating defense and solid shooting. South Carolina forced 18 turnovers, 13 in the first half, and hit eight 3-pointers, five by Cooke, to take over.

Mia Davis, who came in averaging 28 points a game, had 17 to lead Temple.

THE BIG PICTURE

Temple: The Owls have struggled in their history with South Carolina, falling to O-6 all time, including the last four with their former coach, Staley, on the opposite side. Temple has not beaten a ranked opponent since 2017, when they defeated No. 22 USF 77-71.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks went on a 26-game win streak in last year’s pandemic-shortened postseason after that year’s only loss. They’re trending in the right direction so far in 2020-21. It’s been a more disciplined, patient South Carolina the last two outings, both wins, since the loss to North Carolina State.

UP NEXT

Temple opens American Athletic Conference play at home against SMU on Sunday.

South Carolina is off for two weeks until starting Southeastern Conference play against Ole Miss on Dec. 31.