Cooke has career-high 31, No. 1 South Carolina tops Georgia

South Carolina center Kamilla Cardoso, left, shoots over Georgia forward Javyn Nicholson during...
South Carolina center Kamilla Cardoso, left, shoots over Georgia forward Javyn Nicholson during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Athens, Ga. on Monday, Jan. 2, 2023.((AP Photo/Alex Slitz))
Published: Jan. 2, 2023 at 10:15 PM EST
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ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Zia Cooke scored a career-high 31 points and No. 1 South Carolina recovered after trailing throughout the first half to beat Georgia 68-51 on Monday night.

Aliyah Boston, the reigning AP Player of the Year, scored a season-low four points, her second consecutive game in single figures. Boston made only one of six shots from the field and had five rebounds.

Cooke, who has scored 14 or more points in six consecutive games, helped fill the scoring void for the Gamecocks. Cooke made four of 12 3-pointers and 11 of 13 free throws.

No other South Carolina player scored in double figures.

South Carolina (14-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) took its first lead at 35-33 on Brea Beal’s 3-pointer with 5:44 remaining in the third period. Kierra Fletcher followed with a basket to cap the Gamecocks’ 9-0 run.

South Carolina never trailed again, stretching its lead to double figures in the final period.

Georgia (11-5, 0-2) started strong but was denied its first win over a No. 1 team since beating Louisiana Tech in the 1996 NCAA Tournament. The Lady Bulldogs’ last win over a top five team came against No. 2 Texas A&M in the 2021 SEC tournament.

Audrey Warren led Georgia with 12 points. Brittney Smith and Javyn Nicholson each had 10.

The Gamecocks were slowed by poor shooting in the first half. Boston missed her only two shots from the field and made two second-quarter free throws for her only points of the half.

Boston ended her field-goal drought by making a layup to open the second half but then missed her next three shots.

South Carolina made only 8 of 28 shots (29%) from the field in the half as Georgia led 29-26 at the break. Strong second-half shooting lifted the Gamecocks to 44% from the field (22 of 50).

Notables

  • Zia Cooke went off against the Lady Bulldogs, scoring a career high 31 points… in the second half, Cooke went 5-of-8 from the field, 3-of-5 from 3, and 7-of-9 for free throws… her 31 points were the first 30+ in a single game since Te’a Cooper vs. Drake (31, 11/28/18)
  • Brea Beal put down two threes in the third quarter, one of which capping an 11-4 run to give the Gamecocks the first lead of the game, where they remained
  • South Carolina more than doubled its shooting percentage in the second half, improving to 63.6% from 28.6%
  • After taking over the lead, the Gamecocks outscored Georgia 33-18 to finish the game