NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The fourth-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks made sure they wouldn't be joining the growing list of upsets in women's basketball.
Zia Cooke scored 17 points to lead five in double figures and South Carolina routed Vanderbilt 93-57 on Sunday to position the Gamecocks for a possible move up to No. 1 for the first time this season.
“It’s really important especially when you're playing on the road in an SEC territory to be as close to who you are as possible, and I thought our team did that,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “
The Gamecocks (16-1, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) came in and simply dominated from the start on their way to a 10th straight win. They improved to 12-2 against Vanderbilt under Staley, including all six at Memorial Gym in this stretch. They've also won their first four in league play for the sixth time in the past seven seasons.
“There's obviously a reason they're a national championship contender year in and year out,” Vanderbilt coach Stephanie White said. “I think this is one of the single most talented teams that Dawn's had, which is really scary. Athletic, they were clicking on all cylinders, and they just have the ability to come out in waves and make runs, and that's what they did.”
Mikiah Herbert Harrigan added 15 points for South Carolina. Laeticia Amikhere had 11, and Tyasha Harris and Aliyah Boston added 10 each.
Chelsie Hall scored 15 points to lead Vanderbilt (12-5, 2-2). Mariella Fasoula added 12.
The Gamecocks opened the game scoring the first nine points, and they finished with a 12-3 run for a 21-9 lead after the first quarter.
But Vanderbilt had won seven of its last eight despite losing leading scorer Brinae Alexander to an Achilles injury on Nov. 28. That streak included the Commodores' first win at Georgia since 2011 on Thursday night. The Commodores went on a 12- 2 spurt of their own and pulled within 27-24 on a layup by Mariella Fasoula with 3:06 to go in the second.
Vanderbilt didn't score again the rest of the quarter, and South Carolina responded by scoring 11 straight for a 38-24 lead at halftime.
The Gamecocks picked up in the third where they left off, and Cooke's 3 with 8:03 left capped a 21-point spurt that left South Carolina up 48-24. South Carolina outscored Vanderbilt 36-14 in the quarter and led 74-38 going into the fourth. Staley said the Gamecocks regrouped at halftime and started playing faster, making quicker decisions along with some defensive adjustments on handling ball screens better.
“We grouped at halftime and took it to another level,” Staley said. “That is what pretty good teams should do, and I thought our team did that today.”
South Carolina: The Gamecocks made Vanderbilt pay for its mistakes with a 27-10 scoring edge off the Commodores' 16 turnovers. They also used their speed for a 21-9 scoring difference on fast breaks. They also shot 50.7% (35-of-69) from the floor.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores now are 8-2 at Memorial Gym this season with both losses to teams ranked fourth in the nation. They lost to then-No. 4 UConn in November. They need only one more win this season to match the nine wins at home over the past two seasons combined.
But forward Autumn Newby had to be carried off the court with 16.3 seconds left after a leg injury. She finished with five points and eight rebounds. White said they had gone back and forth over whether or not to pull their floor leader. “Anytime you see anybody go down, particularly with the injuries we've already had, it's a blow,” White said.
The Gamecocks could be moving on up Monday in the new poll.
South Carolina: Gamecocks visit Missouri on Thursday night.
Vanderbilt: Host No. 21 Arkansas in a week on Sunday.
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