Henderson, Cooke’s assist No. 1 Gamecocks beat Clemson 76-45
Columbia, SC Dawn Staley saw a foul in South Carolina that you didn’t recognize in the first half against Clemson. Destiny Henderson and Zia Cook made sure the last 20 minutes were a little more than impressive for their coach.
Henderson scored 16 points from three three-pointers and Cook added 13 points to lead the top-ranked Gamecocks in the second half for their 11th straight win over rival Clemson, 75-46, on Wednesday night.
“We were faster than we needed to play. We played so fast we couldn’t read the floor,” Staley said.
Staley, in her 14th season with the Gamecocks (3-0), made sure her players got that message in the first half.
Did Staly scream at the break? “No,” All-America Aliyah Boston said in a lyrical voice. However, her players got the point and started the third quarter 18-6 to lead 45-23 which Clemson couldn’t sway.
Cook had a gauntlet and two 3-pointers in height.
“I think we just have to stay confident,[play]within ourselves,” Cook said. “Move the ball and have fun with each other.”
South Carolina scored just seven field goals in the first 20 minutes to lead 27-17. Cook played only six minutes in the first half as she made two quick fouls. But she lit things up after the break.
South Carolina finished with four players in double digits. Boston scored 11 points, its first game of the season.
South Carolina dominated the Tigers (1-2), winning nearly all of them lopsided with the closest the last time they played here, 69-57, in November 2018.
Combined with the Gamecocks’ early shooting problems, they had 13 spins in the first half – making only 22 fouls and collecting their first two wins.
But Gamecocks heavily locked in defense in the rivalry game, making the Tigers shoot 0-16 in the second quarter. Clemson fired three foul shots during the ten minutes.
Gabe Elliott scored 11 points to lead the Tigers, who slipped to 2-16 all-time against his top-seeded opponent.
Clemson coach Amanda Butler said her players will take this and grow from it. There were moments when Tiger Leopards showed fortitude and poise and others, as she said, “we weren’t the best version of ourselves.”
The Big Picture
Clemson: The Tigers aspire to return to the NCAA Championship for the first time since 2019, Amanda Butler’s first year as a coach. But they will have to show a much sharper attack and more accuracy than they did against South Carolina after shooting at just 29 percent.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks looked like the number one team in the country to oust fifth-ranked North Carolina and South Dakota in their opening week. South Carolina needs more influx of bench players, who have struggled to deliver strikes with their leaders in trouble. Gamecocks didn’t cost here, but they were able to take on high-ranking opponents.
Rings and mirrors
South Carolina celebrated last season’s successes with the SEC Championship rings and raised a banner to remember her third Final Four appearance in Staley’s tenure. Staley was happy with what her team had accomplished, but thought “I want a bigger banner” comes with a national title.
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South Carolina has added a five-star recruit from nearby to his hometown of Ashlyn Watkins from Columbia. The 6-foot-3 Watkins is ranked 12th among the top potential newcomers in the country, according to ESPN. Gamecocks had the highest employment categories in 2020 and this season.
Clemson starts a five-game home game against Penn State on Sunday.
South Carolina begins play in Women’s Battle 4 Atlantis against Buffalo Saturday night.
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