COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP)No. 1 South Carolina is a lot more than just reigning AP Player of the Year Aliyah Boston.
When it comes to outside shooting, Zia Cooke is a key performer for the Gamecocks.
Cooke made three 3-pointers and scored 14 points, and South Carolina opened Southeastern Conference play with a 76-34 victory over Texas A&M on Thursday night.
The Gamecocks improved to 13-0 for the third time in the past nine seasons. They are known mostly for their talented post players like Boston.
But Cooke knows her team will need to make shots from outside the paint to accomplish its goals for this season. And Cooke, like Boston a senior and four-year starter, is taking it on herself to stay sharp.
”Just staying in the gym, doing little things when nobody’s watching,” Cooke said. ”Making sure I’m getting my shots, not changing my routine and just being ready whenever the ball is passed to me.”
Cooke and the Gamecocks got to a quick start, opening a 24-6 lead after one quarter against the Aggies (5-6, 0-1) and first-year coach Joni Taylor.
It was South Carolina’s 10th win in the past 11 meetings with Texas A&M.
South Carolina dropped its SEC opener at Missouri a year ago. This time, the Gamecocks steadily kept pushing and led by 46 points in the final minutes.
Gamecocks coach Dawn Staley said the overall shooting numbers need work, but she liked the versatility the team showed on the court.
”I liked the fact that we could play at different speeds,” Staley said. ”We can play different people at different times, and we get a totally different look.”
Freshman reserve Talaysia Cooper had 15 points for the Gamecocks, and sophomore backup Sania Feagin scored 11 points.
Boston finished with six points and five rebounds, playing just 19 minutes in the runaway win.
The injury-riddled Aggies, who had only eight players available, struggled to establish an offensive rhythm. They finished with 22 turnovers.
Sydney Bowles and Jada Malone each scored eight points for Texas A&M. Both players fouled out.
Taylor, who left Georgia to replace coach Gary Blair with the Aggies, said her team hadn’t played South Carolina before.
”They’re either freshmen or they’re returners who didn’t play against them last year,” she said. ”We tell them all the time, there’s a difference in being in the car and driving the car.”
”And now,” she continued, ”we’ve some players driving the car that have never driven before.”
The Gamecocks did what they wanted inside, finishing with 38 points in the paint and 29 free-throw attempts, making 16 of them.
Cooke went 5 for 10 from the field overall.
Texas A&M: The Aggies are the only SEC team with a sub-.500 overall record. … They remain winless on the road, now with a 0-4 record. … The 34 points marked a season low.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have won 34 straight at home. … This was the eighth time this season the Gamecocks held a team to fewer than 40 points.
Texas A&M returns home to play Florida on Sunday.
South Carolina goes to Georgia on Monday night.
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