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

Charles Odham
Associated Press

ATHENS, GA – Georgia coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson was pleased with her defensive effort against South Carolina star Aaliyah Boston.

Lady Bulldog was far less successful in her attempts to contain Jia Cook.

Cook scored a career-high 31 points to beat Georgia 68-51 on Monday night, trailing through the first half before No. 1 South Carolina recovered.

Abrahamson Henderson described Boston as “the number one player in the country” and said it was “amazing” to keep his stars at four points.

“We were really beaten by one kid,” Abrahamson Henderson said, referring to Cook.

Boston, the reigning AP Player of the Year, posted two straight single-digit numbers. The 6-foot-5-inch senior had only 1 of his 6 shots from the field and had 5 rebounds.

Cook, who has scored 14 or more in six straight games, helped fill the Gamecock scoring void. She scored 20 points in the second half after struggling off the field early in the game.

“My teammates always tell me to keep shooting,” said Cook, who made 4 of his 12 3-point shots and 11 of his 13 free throws.

Cook said South Carolina coach Dawn Staley “kept telling me to keep shooting.”

Cook continued to shoot, making 5 of 8 shots in the second half. The Gamecocks outscored the Lady Bulldogs 21-11 in the final period while making 9 of 11 free throws.

No other South Carolina player has scored in double figures.

South Carolina State (14-0, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) took its first lead, 35-33, on Blair Beale’s 3-pointer with 5:44 left in the third period. Kierra Fletcher scored the goal to end his 9-0 run for the Gamecocks.

South Carolina did not trail again, extending their lead to double digits in the final period.

“We had to weather the storm,” said Staley, adding that Georgia “played like any team in the first half of the year.”

The Lady Bulldogs (11-5, 0-2) swarmed around the basket with a team defense led by forwards Britney Smith and Javin Nicholson.

Audrey Warren, who led Georgia by 12 points, said, “We were really trying to emphasize helping the bigs in the paint. “There are really tall guys out there.”

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

Boston ended the field goal drought by making a layup to start the second half, but missed the next three shots.

South Carolina made only 8 of 28 shots (29%) from the field as Georgia led 29–26 at halftime. A strong second-half shot put the Gamecocks up 44% (22 of 50) from the field.

still looking

Georgia was denied its first win against a No. 1 team since defeating Louisiana Tech in the 1996 NCAA Tournament. The Lady Bulldogs’ final win over a top-5 team came against No. 2 Texas A&M in his 2021 SEC tournament.

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South Carolina: Cook, who scored 14 points and made three 3-pointers in Gamecox’s SEC opener against Texas A&M, again provided perimeter scoring. Her previous career high was her 27 on November 13, 2019 in Dayton. …Beale helped her two her threes in the third quarter and the Gamecocks’ final basket of the period saw her lead 47-40. Camila Cardoso has 8 points and 7 rebounds.

Georgia: Team-leading guard Diamond Battles, averaging 14.1 points, held on to one point while missing each of her four shots from the field. …Smith and Nicholson each scored 10 for him.


South Carolina continues its SEC schedule on Thursday night at home against Auburn.

Georgia will play a home game against Kentucky on Thursday night.

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