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NCAAW Roundup: Familiar faces step up for No. 1 South Carolina

Zia Cooke, Destanni Henderson and Aliyah Boston were relied upon by Dawn Staley in the South Carolina Gamecocks’ season-opener against the NC State Wolfpack and it paid off with a solid win.

Stanford v South Carolina
Zia Cooke
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

It was familiar faces leading the way for the No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks in their 66-57 win over the No. 5 NC State Wolfpack on Tuesday at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C., as junior Zia Cooke, senior Destanni Henderson and junior Aliyah Boston were the team’s top three contributors.

Cooke was good for 17 points, while Henderson (14 points) and Boston (eight points) both showed up in the areas you'd expect them to; Henderson dished out five assists and Boston came up huge with five blocks.

South Carolina’s highly-touted freshman class was not a factor in the victory. Of the four Gamecock freshmen, who were all in the Hoop Gurlz top 14, only No. 2 recruit Raven Johnson and No. 14 recruit Bree Hall saw any playing time and they combined for just 12 minutes and zero points.

The Gamecocks were facing one of the best teams in the country right off the bat and chose to rely on the players who were already established at the collegiate level.

South Carolina started the game on a 6-0 run and after that NC State never tied it or took the lead, though it did keep it within 14 for the duration of the contest and cut it to one three times in the third. A Raina Perez fast break layup with 5:15 to play in the frame, an Elissa Cunane layup at 4:23 and a Jakia Brown-Turner make in the paint at 3:43 were the baskets that got the Wolfpack the closest. However, the Gamecocks went on a 10-3 run to end the third and entered the fourth up eight.

In the fourth, Cooke scored the first four South Carolina points and finished with five. Henderson notched seven points in the frame while Boston had six. A Laeticia Amihere free throw with 39 seconds left in the game was the only fourth-quarter South Carolina point not scored by the Gamecocks’ star trio from a year ago. Cooke, Henderson and Boston’ efforts kept South Carolina up by at least six throughout the frame.

Cunane, the preseason ACC Player of the Year, struggled with just eight points on 4-of-11 shooting from the field. Perez and Brown-Turner both posted 18 points in defeat. Perez’s star shone particularly bright as she went an efficient 7-of-9 from the field and 2-of-2 from distance. She also dished out three assists.

It wasn’t much of a 3-point shooting night overall with the teams combining to make just eight treys. South Carolina shot 13 more free throws and made nine more. Its bench outscored NC State’s bench 18-7.

Amihere finished with nine points, five rebounds and two steals, while Gamecocks Brea Beal and Destiny Littleton each recorded seven points.

Other action

No. 4 Maryland Terrapins over Longwood Lancers, 97-67

2020’s No. 2 Hoop Gurlz recruit Angel Reese looked good in her sophomore debut, scoring 21 points and hauling in 14 rebounds for the Terps. Maryland freshman Shyanne Sellers added 17 points and Longwood’s Kyla McMakin posted a game-high 22 in defeat.

No. 7 Baylor Bears over Texas State Bobcats, 77-70

Baylor was up 15 with 5:12 to play. Then the Bobcats went on a 7-0 run that was in vain. NaLyssa Smith started off her season with 23 points and seven rebounds after Bears coach Nicki Collen called her the best player in the country. Baylor’s Queen Egbo added 16 points and 11 boards and Alabama transfer Jordan Lewis had 14 points and seven assists.

No. 10 Oregon Ducks over Idaho State Bengals, 91-34

Sedona Prince led Oregon with 18 points. Maddie Scherr added 14 points and five helpers.

No. 11 Michigan Wolverines over IUPUI Jaguars, 67-62 (OT)

Michigan received a scare in its opener. Neither team scored in the first 1:42 of overtime and then the Wolverines went on a 7-0 run that featured five points from Naz Hillmon. IUPUI didn't have enough time left to recover. Hillmon finished with 30 points and 15 rebounds. Macee Williams notched 17 points, seven rebounds, three assists, four steals and two blocks in defeat.

No. 12 Iowa State Cyclones over Omaha Mavericks, 65-38

Sophomore Lexi Donarski led the Cyclones in scoring with 18 points. Scoring phenom Ashley Joens added 15 to go along with eight boards. Also, Emily Ryan tied an Iowa State program record with nine steals. Ryan also had nine points, three assists and three blocks.

No. 13 Kentucky Wildcats over Presbyterian Blue Hose, 81-53

Treasure Hunt posted 18 points, nine rebounds and five assists for the winners. Dre’una Edwards was the game’s high scorer with 20 points and All-American Rhyne Howard managed 15 points, seven helpers and four steals.

No. 16 Florida State Seminoles over North Florida Ospreys, 78-50

The Seminoles used a balanced scoring attack with 10 players scoring five or more points. Bianca Jackson led the way with 13, but it was Morgan Jones (eight points, 10 rebounds, four assists) and Valencia Myers (nine points, eight rebounds, three blocks) who contributed the most all-around.