Boston, Cooke lead No. 1 South Carolina in rout of Kentucky
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Aliyah Boston had 21 points and 11 rebounds, Zia Cooke scored 10 of her 20 points during a 16-0 second-quarter rally and top-ranked South Carolina pulled away in the fourth quarter to rout Kentucky 95-66 on Thursday night.
After battling back to win at Mississippi State on Sunday, the Gamecocks (17-0, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) overcame another road challenge from the Wildcats to retain a share of first place in the conference.
Kentucky’s 14-1 run provided a 31-21 lead midway through the second quarter and a huge dose of confidence against the reigning national champions. But South Carolina quickly seized momentum. Boston, who was 9 of 11 shooting, responded with a jumper and Cooke added a 3-pointer, a three-point play and two layups during the surge to lead 37-33 at the break.
The Gamecocks maintained a small cushion after three quarters before going 13 of 17 from the floor in the fourth to pull away.
Maddie Scherr scored a career-high 25 points with five 3s for the Wildcats (8-9, 0-4), who fell to their second top-10 opponent this week. Kentucky lost 67-48 to now-No. 5 LSU on Sunday at Rupp Arena.
South Carolina nearly doubled Kentucky in scoring in the paint (62-32) on the way to shooting 64% (35 of 55). Kamilla Cardoso added 12 points and Laeticia Amihere 11 as the Gamecocks also dominated bench scoring 39-10.
The teams met for the first time since Kentucky upset the top-seeded Gamecocks 64-62 to win the SEC Tournament title. South Carolina went on to win its second national title and hasn’t looked back, though it entered the contest in a four-way tie atop the league.
South Carolina: A double-digit deficit didn’t faze the Gamecocks, who had plenty of time to regroup and use their size and speed to reclaim the lead. Cooke sparked the rally and contributed key plays whenever needed to help her team survive another road test.
Kentucky: The Wildcats stayed within reach but just couldn’t stop Boston or Cooke, who found a lot of room inside for layups. Scherr made 10 of 15 from the field and 5 of 7 from deep.
South Carolina: Hosts Missouri on Sunday.
Kentucky: Visits Florida on Sunday to begin a two-game road swing.