Boston, Cooke lead No. 1 South Carolina women over Auburn

February 18, 2022 GMT
South Carolina forward Aliyah Boston (4) dribbles against Auburn forward Jala Jordan (14) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)
South Carolina forward Aliyah Boston (4) dribbles against Auburn forward Jala Jordan (14) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)
South Carolina forward Aliyah Boston (4) dribbles against Auburn forward Jala Jordan (14) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)
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South Carolina forward Aliyah Boston (4) dribbles against Auburn forward Jala Jordan (14) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)
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South Carolina forward Aliyah Boston (4) dribbles against Auburn forward Jala Jordan (14) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina coach Dawn Staley didn’t pay attention to her own guideline earlier this week. Turns out Aliyah Boston had no problem staying the course for the top-ranked Gamecocks.

Staley, who preaches her players should keep “the main thing, the main thing,” instead pushed for for the 6-foot-5 All-American Boston to get more attention for national player of the year awards.

Boston did her talking on the court with 10 points and 12 rebounds for her 18th straight double-double in a 75-37 rout of Auburn on Thursday night.

“I just try to come in every day and make sure I’m able to do what the team needs,” said Boston, who’s grateful for her coach’s support. “I kind of leave that conversation to everybody else.”

Zia Cooke had 20 points as South Carolina (24-1, 12-1 Southeastern Conference) won its 12th straight game. Boston moved within a game of the SEC mark of 19 straight games with double-figure points and rebounds that was set in 2006 by LSU great Sylvia Fowles.

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South Carolina took a 10-point lead in the first eight minutes, and Auburn (9-15, 1-12) could not catch up. The Gamecocks won their 12th straight in the series.

Boston has generally been an actions-speak-louder-than-words person since coming to campus three seasons ago. But Staley had been bothered by what she heard during broadcasts about other contenders for national awards —including some during South Carolina games — that she thought didn’t give Boston her due.

“I’m sure it does something psychologically to her,” Staley said of the discussion. “I don’t want it to get to a place where it’s affecting her.”

There’s little chance of that happening on the court, where Boston has been efficient and relentless.

She had seven points and nine boards by halftime and quickly took care of things in the third quarter, collecting her 10th board to keep a possession alive, then draining a 3-pointer for her 10th point.

Boston came out of the game a couple of minutes later after two more boards and did not return. It was her 49th career double-double.

South Carolina built the lead to 37 points in the closing moments.

Cooke, who along with Boston was part of South Carolina’s No. 1 recruiting class three years ago, reached 20 points for the third time this season and first in 15 games since a win over Maryland on Dec. 12.

Aicha Coulibaly led Auburn with nine points, half her season’s average, on 4-of-18 shooting. Coulibaly also had nine rebounds.

Auburn coach Johnnie Harris said couldn’t maintain its poise against South Carolina.

“We have very little for error,” she said. “And we made too many of them.”

THE BIG PICTURE

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Auburn: It was always going to be tough for the struggling Tigers to keep things close at South Carolina. But Auburn continually pushed the ball inside side against the the taller, stronger Gamecocks and came out with its share of mid-range and close-in baskets. Harris, in her first season, must hit the recruiting trail to improve her team in future years, but they play a hard-nosed style that can succeed.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks weren’t about to fall into a trap with a big game ahead Sunday. Given the right set of circumstances, a win over No. 12 Tennessee could clinch the SEC regular-season title. The hype will surely be high for the next game with ESPN’s “College GameDay” at the Colonial Life Arena.

FEELING IT

Zia Cooke couldn’t wait to for the game to start, she felt so good about her shooting. Cooke scored seven of South Carolina’s first nine points and finished 8-of-14 shooting with three 3-pointers.

“After I hit my first couple of shots, I told myself, ‘Stay the course, stay calm and play clean.’”

BENCH PLAY

The Gamecocks played 14 players after taking a big lead. South Carolina’s starters were all on the bench much of the second half as the team’s reserves got lots of minutes that Staley believes will serve her squad well the rest of the year. Freshman guard Saniya Rivers played 22 minutes, second most on the team, against Auburn.

UP NEXT

Auburn: Returns home to face its third straight ranked opponent in No. 21 Georgia on Sunday.

South Carolina: Hosts No. 12 Tennessee on Sunday.

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More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25